Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Rift City Session 37-40 reports - happy third birthday!

Five bold adventurers took up the call for the 37th Rift City Campaign session. This was the third anniversary of the campaign as we started in August 2017.

Marching order was:

Berg (5th Level Dwarf)

Galan (5th Level Elf)

Gibbet (6th Level Thief)

Brigham (5th Level Cleric)

Shazam (2nd Level Elf)

Shazam hasn't been to many sessions recently and is therefore trailing a little in levels.

The party decided to head back to the cave entrance they explored last time. This is a little further on from where they have been going most of the time, they hoped it might mean more loot as the caves would have been raided less often.

They found their way in OK - nothing else had taken residence in the main room behind the cave entrance. Previously they'd encountered Carrion Crawlers there but this time it was empty.

Pushing on they came to a room (I think this one also had Carrion Crawlers in last session - this area contained a little nest of them) where there was a doorway they had not previously tried. I can't remember whether Gibbet found the trap but couldn't disarm it, or didn't find the trap (Gibbet in this session was really successful at not finding traps - made all his rolls, I think, on untrapped doors - but very bad at finding the traps on the doors that had them) - either way, an axe-blade swept out when Shazam tried to go through, and the noble Elf was no more.

I have a houserule called 'Elementary Staunching' that I've used in the last 4 campaigns I've started and discussed several times before on the blog (such as here). It is intended to make combat a little less catastrophically dangerous for PCs by giving them a chance to survive at 0hp until the rest of the party can at least try some battlefield first aid. 

But... the party didn't do it. I'm a little surprised by that. Essentially, the view expressed was 'we're happy for Shazam to die because that way he's replaced by a higher-level version'.

That isn't the way this is supposed to work. Because of the stricture not to allow too much level-mixing, I ruled that new PCs begin at the lowest level in the party. I also have an 'exploration bonus' to XP to represent the exploration of new territory: this is based on the average that PCs need to reach their next level. Low-level characters drag down that average somewhat and make the bonus smaller. The upshot of the interaction between these two rules that it makes sense (from a certain point of view) to allow low-level PCs to die in order to boost the experience of high-level PCs.

That is not supposed to be how it works at all.

Anyway... Shazam died, and the PCs found a new, much higher-level, adventurer, Kraghelm the Dwarf, back at the town. I think this rule is potentially going to break the campaign.

More stuff happened. Oh, boy did it happen. But, actually, it's months ago and I can't remember what.

What I do know is that the party also went adventuring in session 38 (in September), where they visited the Bath-house of Blibdoolpoolp once more, and fought their way down corridors they've never visited before, in the furthest parts of Level 1. They do have a habit of attacking everything though, even things that aren't threatening them. Poor crystal statues...

In October (Session 39), they went down to Level 3 through one of the areas that they've been before. Marl was able to join the PCs for this one which was nice, as Marl hasn't been for ages. A highlight was a room with levers which they played about with until they opened a door. I think they sussed that the other levers opened other doors, but not that they were standing in the control-room of a prison complex. It didn't matter, they killed the prisoners (who were werewolves) anyway.

For the November session (session 40) Berg, Galan, Brigham, Gibbet, Karensa (who joined us for the first time in several months) and Kraghelm ventured down - in that order. They decided they'd dare to venture round the bend in the road and try their luck in a cave round there. That's supposed to be the scarier dungeon entrances, though I'm not sure completely certain what level they were on.

It didn't necessarily go well. Ascertaining from the number of statues in a cavern that there might be a Medusa about, there were in fact three of them. The PCs got surprise luckily but but even so, Kraghelm and Karensa were turned to stone and Gibbet bitten before the fight was over. Gibbet made his poison save so he was OK in the end (a bit hurty from the bite) but with no way to turn Karensa and Kraghelm back to flesh (you can't do that as a wizard until 11th level, apparently) the PCs lashed a rope round Karensa and dragged her back to town so Galan could claim she was legally dead and he was her heir. The statue of Kraghelm was left in the Medusae's cave...

The legal wrangling took as long as the adventuring. Galan also declared that as he now had 20,000gp in portable wealth he was off - as one of the characters that ages ago gave up a family secret, Galan has bee trying to amass some treasure to restore his family's fortunes and marry his lady-love Her family blocked the marriage alliance when Galan's family was ruined. He's hoping a bunch of cash (and jewellery, gems and a few magic items) might allow the clan to re-establish itself and regain its influence. 

The net result is that there's going to be a lot of new PCs in coming months!

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Bakshi's Lord of the Rings

I re-watched it yesterday. Not seen it in 40 years, and I have to say I think it stands up pretty well (Mrs. Orc and Orc Minissimus disagreed and gave up round about Lorien I think).

It has got me thinking. I have a few 'spare' LotR minis that have not yet been painted up. Due to having a couple of different sets (a Mines of Moria set and a box of Heroes of Helm's Deep) and then a few random ebay purchases I have in total (as far as the Fellowship goes anyway) 1 plastic Gandalf, 1 plastic Boromir (for certain - I think I may have another in a different box, maybe 90% convinced of that); 2 Legolases (1 plastic, 1 metal); 2 Aragorns (1 plastic, 1 metal); 3 Gimlis (2 plastic, one with a broken weapon, 1 metal); 2 plastic Merrys; 3 plastic Pippins; 3 Sams (2 plastic, one with his pan broken off, 1 metal); and 4 Frodos (3 plastic, 1 metal).

I definitely have some spares is what I'm saying... so I think I shall paint some of them up in colours matching the Bakshi versions - though to be honest, several of them have been partly-painted anyway. I definitely started painting the metal Legolas and Aragorn figures back in the day (The Two Towers was released in 2002 so it's quite likely I've had some of these figures for upwards of 15 years). Checking on the others, I think I remember at least putting some paint on Gandalf, but the plastics of Boromir, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and one of the plastic lots of the four Hobbits have been painted to a greater or lesser extent, and not by me.

The almost-complete paints somewhat resemble these outfits:

Sam, Merry, Frodo, Pippin, from Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring
Painting them up Bakshi-style might be easier with the Hobbits than with some of the characters. The clothing worn by some of the characters is not really so similar (well, Gandalf is pretty much the same) but the Hobbits aren't massively different. Aragorn and Boromir, definitely different. Legolas and Gimli, pretty different. The Hobbits' clothes are similar, without being identical.

Pippin, Sam, Merry and Frodo, I think about to hide from the Black Rider, from Bakshi's Lord of the Rings
Essentially, they wear breeches, shirts and waistcoats, with green cloaks over the top (Bakshi doesn't have them given new cloaks in Lorien, but that doesn't matter, I'm painting up 'Moria' Hobbits anyway). Unlike the others, Sam doesn't wear a shirt-and-waistcoat combo, he wears a sort of tunic or smock. The modern GW Hobbits (I'm old enough to remember the original GW Lord of the Rings range from the '80s - in fact, I have a few of those too, in with all my 'Oldhammer' minis) are obviously designed to be faithful reproductions of the Jackson film versions, so they wear jackets as well as waistcoats, and the waistcoats themselves have a considerably higher neck-line than the Bakshi depictions. So I'll have to use a bit of creative licence with transferring the information.

Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry, at the Prancing Pony, from Bakshi's Lord of the Rings
The notes I made (with occasional corrections to something I misinterpreted in bad light):

All Hobbits wear dark green cloaks

Frodo - red hair, brown tunic waistcoat, white shirt, dark brown trews, black belt, brass (gold?) buckle

Sam - black dark brown hair, red-brown tunic, dark brown trews

Merry - blondish hair, tan mid-green waistcoat, white pale green shirt, mid- darker green trews

Pippin - brown hair, tan waistcoat, yellow shirt, lightish mid-brown trews

This was after getting Merry and Pippin confused, but afterwards I sorted out which was which. By the time I thought about this, it was difficult to tell Merry and Pippin apart, Merry had already gone for his walk in Bree and Pippin had dropped the stone down the well. I should have just waited and got some images from the web.

So that's the next task I've set myself, getting them painted, the Hobbits first. I shall have to paint over the blue breeches one of them has already been given but it will be fine I'm sure. Whether paint will touch any of the rest of the Fellowship in the near future remains to be seen. From one point of view, it is unfortunate that both Legolases have been painted, at least to some extent. I don't intend to repaint the plastic Legolas to match the Bakshi version, and I'm definitely not repainting my metal Legolas that I painted all those years ago. A bit of a touch-up maybe, but not a total repaint. Perhaps I can paint a different Elf for the Bakshi version, I have plenty. Trying to work out how to paint Gimli, however, in fairly different clothes, will be a bit of a challenge. Aragorn too, their costumes are very different. But maybe instead of the greenish palate of the Jackson Aragorn, I will paint one in more russety tones. But for the ones that are at least partly done, I'm going to finish them Jackson-style.

Legolas, Aragorn, Boromir and Gimli, at the death of Boromir and the breaking of the Fellowship, from Bakshi's Lord of the Rings
So that's it - painting of LotR characters. There should be an update 'soon'... whatever that means...

Friday, 10 July 2020

Rift City vague update

Where does the time go?

The Rift City campaign is continuing - due to social distancing, it's happening on Discord. We're still getting together once a month to dungeon the heck out of the caverns of the Rift. The PCs (now mostly around 4th-5th level) are currently beating up an area of Level 3. But, somehow, I never get around to doing the write-ups. Part of the problem is that I make fewer notes running the game on Discord and it's harder to reconstruct in the end. But really I'm just bad at this.

Lyracian, who plays in the campaign, has written up some of the sessions on his blog. Some recent sessions, only partly covered by me, can be found here:

Sessions 30-33 report

Session 34 report

What happened in Session 35? Well, the PCs were exploring the same area of Level 3 as in Session 34. One peculiar thing was that they found a room that contained four curious devices that seemed to be a bit like a cross between a chair and a covered bath. Three were empty but one contained a (possibly sleeping, possibly dead) occupant. The PCs prised open the lid, and the occupant woke up. It was a male Elf, who seemed somewhat bemused. There wasa lso a cat in the ... sleep-chamber... which also woke up. Berg tried to kill it but the Elf cast Hold Person on her, and then berated Galen and Karensa in somewhat archaic Elvish about keeping their servant under control. It seemed the Elf had travelled in the sleep-chamber with other companions, but also inside another metal ship, a great distance from another star. What the PCs made of all of this is anyone's guess, but the Elf announced his intention to see the world of two suns (news to the PCs, they only know about one) and find some Elven leaders to find out what had been happening since he arrived. The ELf PCs at least should be starting to suspect that somehow he's been asleep for a very long time indeed...

This is the 36th session coming up. We've actually missed two while I was working away at the end of last year, so technically it might be the 34th session actually run, but for accounting purposes it should be Session 36 I think. We started in August 2017 after all, and thus have been running for 3 years now. I'm quite pleased that we have managed to keep it going - but I'm looking forward to it being face-to-face again!

Monday, 2 March 2020

Rift City - Sessions 30 and 31

Well, it finally happened. After two and a half years, we had a gaming session that I didn't write up before the next session. Working away is certainly taking a toll on both gaming, and blogging about gaming.

We have had two more sessions of the Rift City campaign, and should be having another on 8th March. On Jan 112th, because I had the 13th off work, we met in our pub venue of most of 2019 in the evening. However, as I can't have the Monday after the second Sunday of every month off work, we're holding them earlier in the day at the moment. Also, because we haven't found a public venue that will take us on Sunday afternoon, we held the last session - and will be holding the next - at the house of Galen, Berg and Karina's players.

Only, Karina's player isn't Karina's player any more, because Karina succumbed to some poison in session 30. So, for Session 31, a new Cleric called Willow joined the party.

The party is currently exploring an area of Level 2 away from where they've been before, running into angry apes, shriekers, bandits and Orcs, and gaining a bit of loot of course. Then they found a way down to part of Level 3. There the PCs encountered a high-level Cleric, but with judicious use of a blinding spell they rendered him relatively powerless while they chopped him up. They've done a bit of exploring but it's pretty inconclusive as yet - perhaps just as well, I'd not expected them to go that way and haven't built much of Level 3. Where they'll go next session I'm not really sure so I'm just hoping I can stay one step ahead.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Rift City - no session 29!

It's now the Saturday after we should have had a gaming session. I'm still on a work pattern that means early starts on a Monday and that really limits gaming on a Sunday.

We may be able to have a session next month at our usual venue - it depends if I can get the following Monday off - but that's not yet certain, and what happens in February is as yet an open question. This new work pattern may see the death of the Rift City Campaign, which will be a shame as it's been something that I and about 25 other people have enjoyed being part of.

However, even if it does mean the end of Rift City, it will not I hope be the end of the Wandering Monster Table experiment in open table gaming in Leicester. I'm sure, with a bit of forethought, the regulars can put together a plan to continue the open table concept. It seems to me that the most important thing for open gaming is that the sessions are discrete, to allow for the changing nature of the group from session to session, whether that's because people can't make it or because new people join. Any game that can handle that, and is not impossibly difficult for a newbie to get into, is I think a suitable candidate for an open gaming table.

One of the things that has been discussed is a Traveler campaign. As long as it is episodic in nature I don't see why not. Something like a Star Trek set-up - a large ship, with the PCs acting as an 'away team' for each session - could work well (this could be for exploration, as in Star Trek, or a military strike team, an investigation into something, or some kind of heist, or any number of other reasons). This isn't the usual Traveler set-up, which tends to feature a team of PCs acting as mercenaries for a series of patrons, or sometimes basically as pirates, while they try to make money to make improvements to their space-ship, but of course this idea (rather more like the group aboard the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope) depends on a fairly stable team, or good explanations as why someone is or isn't there. A large ship or maybe space station, with a large population capable of providing a pool of people from which a suitable 'cast' can be drawn for each 'episode', seems like a viable alternative way of organising an open table sci-fi campaign.

Another possibility that is being aired is a Runequest campaign. This could be organised in a very similar manner to the Rift City Campaign, though megadungeons are not necessarily a major feature of Glorantha. Small exploring parties however, that may change in composition from one session to the next, are very easy to accommodate I think. There's plenty of adventure to be had in Pavis and the Big Rubble, and PCs could easily spend a long time exploring, treasure-hunting and generally being involved in shady shenanigans without necessarily going far from home at all (so, back in time for tea, as with Rift City).

However, all this may be moot. There is a rumour that one of the three gaming cafés in town can accommodate us on a Sunday afternoon, so we may start using them and getting our gaming in earlier in the day, which may solve the problem. I hope we do find a solution that at least allows me to play sometimes on a Sunday. I'm happy to play in someone else's game, especially if I'm only going to be able to play occasionally,  but if I can get there more regularly, I'm also happy to DM - and my favourite system is and is likely to remain Basic D&D, so an earlier slot may well allow Rift City to continue. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months... as in the old Persian curse, 'may you live in interesting times'!

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Rift CIty - Session 28

Alas and alack!

I had hoped not to have to do this but the Session 28 of the Rift City Campaign has had to be cancelled, at pretty short notice. It should be taking place on Sunday, 10th November, at 6pm. As I type, it's Sunday 10th November, just after 5pm, and I will shortly be leaving town to go to a different city about 2 hours away, where I will stay in hotel so I can get to the office at 6am, so I can get a works' bus to somewhere else, another 2 hours away. Otherwise I'd have to leave here at 4am tomorrow morning to get there in time. This work-pattern doesn't really give me the opportunity to DM the regular session on Sunday evenings.

I don't know whether this will be a regular thing, but it might be. That might put the kibosh on the Rift City Campaign if it's a permanent (or even short/medium term) thing. We may be able to re-arrange of course, perhaps doing it in the afternoon, I don't know, I'll have to consult the current players and the venue and see if it's possible. Or maybe I'll get some clarity from work about whether I'll be doing this in future. Perhaps someone else could run a different campaign for a bit - some people have been expressing an interest in Runequest, and someone else in running a Traveler game. I don't want to just kill the campaign, but it's not possible with the current set-up in these changed circumstances.

Watch this space - I hope we'll be back to normal next month, but I have no idea what will actually happen. I want to continue with the open table concept, I think we've done good work over the last 27 months, but something will have to change if we are going to continue.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Rift City - Session 27

A new day and a new party heading into the caves. Joining our regular party members (Brigham, Cnut, Gell, Gibbet, Karensa, Marl and Nelson) was a cleric, newly-arrived in town - Tanika.

The party established its marching order:

Marl (3rd Level Halfling)
Cnut (4th Level Fighter)
Tanika (2nd Level Cleric)
Nelson (3rd Level Magic USer)
Gibbet (5th Level Thief)
Gell (2nd Level Fighter)
Brigham (4th Level Cleric)
Karensa (3rd Level Elf)

The idea was a demi-human front and back to use infravision (I ruled long ago that Halflings have infravision and speak Halfling, even though neither is included in the rules); then a fighter and a cleric (in case of undead); then, in the middle, the two specialists (that is, the only people not wearing plate).

The exploration started simply enough: the PCs have for the past few sessions been checking out an area of Level 2, and decided that they'd head back there. Unfortunately, though they had a map made by Marl and Brigham, they'd forgotten to get the 'other map' off Galen (who wasn't there but had mapped the first visit to these tunnels). However, Karensa had at least sorted out before the game that she'd collected the Bag of Holding for any treasure.

They entered the cave that led to the corridor they'd previously been exploring. About 120' down this corridor, there is a door, and the party was somewhat surprised to see some people coming out of it - adventurers like themselves. These poor souls told the PCs they'd got lost in the caves and didn't know where they were, so the PCs told them that they were close to an exit, and the NPC party turned and headed back the way they'd come. This may have been a sign of things to come -or maybe it wasn't. The PCs then spiked the door shut that the other party had come through, to stop them heading back that way again - the procedure did cause some noise however, which led to me making more rolls for wandering monsters.

The PCs pushed on, and soon found more wanderers. These three were searching for a lost heirloom, a sword with a skull design on the pommel. Again the PCs talked their way through the encounter, and pushed on - through the room with a pool that didn't have a lion in it any more.

They were moving on to areas they'd never been to before when they had their third encounter. Again this was a wandering monster encounter. I hadn't realised when I prepared the list of wanderers for this area that so many of them were NPCs, but they were. Also, I kept rolling low as they explored so they got several in quick succession (of course there was also the banging, that helped). This time it was a lone Elf, who again convinced the party not to attack her.

A little further on the PCs came to a set of stairs going down. They did debate whether they wanted to go down to Level 3 ("there's eight of us after all!" I heard someone say), but decided that they'd stick to Level 2 and explore further.

They moved north and Gibbet, scouting out for traps, realised that there was some kind of magical effect on a door. Making sure that they could open the door without touching it by judicious use of an 8-foot pole (Gibbet's 10-foot pole had suffered an accident many sessions before), the PCs navigated their way  through, with little ill effect that they could determine. However, there were consequences to this that were not to become immediately apparent.

Pushing on, the PCs entered a room that appeared to have been some kind of evil temple. A pile of candles lay in the centre; a tapestry showing ghouls devouring victims covered the west wall; on the east wall, there were bookshelves covered in dust (but no scrolls). As they were searching around, a gas trap went off - Tanika, Cnut, Gell, and I think Nelson failed their saves and were caught in the cloud of poison. This was not a standard 'Save or Die' poison, which is usual in B/X, it came with specific damage attached (this part of the dungeon is ultimately derived from an AD&D source, and I believe 'Save or Die' is less common in AD&D material).

There followed a moment of shock for Cnut - what I think I told him was 'take d10 damage'. But I might not have done - what Cnut's player heard me say was 'take 10 damage', which would take Cnut down to 4hp I think. But when I asked Tanika, Gell, and (I think) Nelson to roll for their damage, Cnut's player asked why I didn't let him roll, and we realised what happened. In the end, Cnut ended up taking something like 3 points.

But, Tanika was not so lucky. I think that sickly Cleric only had about 7hp to start with and promptly fell over, 'dead' in so far as people are dead at 0hp. Time for the party to apply 'elementary staunching', or at least some sort of battlefield first aid, possibly the kiss of life. The result was, Tanika did survive, but at the cost of losing a point of CON permanently (this point is converted to 1hp), going from 10 to 9. Brigham then used a Cure Light Wounds spell to restore 3 more hp to Tanika.

I'll admit I wasn't sure about this. Cure Light Wounds is not 'neutralise poison' so I was unsure it would work. But ultimately the gas did 'damage' not 'poison damage', and what Cure Light Wounds heals is hit points not some subset of hit points relating to injuries from weapons. So I let Tanika heal the 3 points. Tanika felt able to limp on, so the party kept going, on into the next room.

Here they found another large room, but with few interesting features. While searching around however they did come across a kind of leather-covered notebook with diagrams and notes in an unknown language. Gibbet pocketed it for later perusal, and the party moved on towards the south-west. As they did the rearguard heard something behind them.

The PCs have been guilty of some pretty grim behaviour in their adventuring career. The slaughter of Orc prisoners, for example. An unprovoked assault on some Lizardmen during the last session. This time, it was the slaughter of some Lawful, curious and basically friendly Neanderthals that was not the party's finest hour. Unfortunately, the party didn't have a common language with the Neanderthals, and Karensa decided that they perhaps posed a threat, so she shot at them. This enraged them (they made their morale check) and they counter attacked.

Poor Tanika was having no luck, being part of the rearguard, as one of the Neanderthals' stone-tipped spears found a gap in the old plate armour. Then the Neanderthals were on the party. Down the unlucky cleric went went for the second time. I apologised to Tanika's player, though I hadn't done it on purpose, it certainly wasn't my intention to kill a new character twice in one session.

The rest of the party, apart from Marl and Cnut who were in the next room, made short work of the two Neanderthals, and Gell (I think) volunteered to staunch Tanika's wounds. This also proved effective - but now, Tanika's CON has dropped from an OK 10 to a frankly risky 8. Meanwhile the others looted the bodies, coming up with several sacks of coinage - all copper - which went into the Bag of Holding. The party re-organised itself and put Tanika in the middle, just to try to help with survivability! The new marching order was:

Marl - Cnut - Gibbet - Nelson - Tanika - Gell - Brigham - Karensa

This is the marching order that ran into some Rock Baboons. These are noisy but not particularly difficult for metal-clad, bow-armed PCs to deal with. Also, they don't have very high morale. A bit of shooting broke the Baboons' nerve and they fled without causing any real bother. Then few more rooms - the PCs really were getting through quite a lot of exploration, but they weren't really finding any treasure. Eventually they decided head back.

However, when they'd passed through the room where the poison gas trap had been situated, they found to their consternation that the short corridor that they expected to lead to the top of the stairs to Level 3 took them nowhere of the sort. Instead, they came into another large room. 'Oh,' they thought, 'it must be a magic door, it's a teleporter - let's try again'. But going back and trying the door again produced the same result - the door they were heading south through led to a the north-west corner of a big room.

This caused a lot of discussion. I mean a lot. The reason they'd decided to head for home was because the session was coming to an end, and now they were stuck who-knows-where?  The way the sessions are set up - the very method of the open table - relies on the party leaving the dungeon at the end of the session and it looked like that might not be possible. There was even discussion of activating the Teleport scroll that Nelson carried - at least then they would know the way back to an exit.

They were trying to work their way back to the entrance, knowing where it was but not necessarily which way they needed to go to get back to it. They thought perhaps they should head north-east, but in that direction was a room full of Undead and they didn't fancy that. Instead,  they pushed on down one more corridor, and at the end entered a room that some of the party recognised from having been here in a previous session. They'd teleported for sure, but not actually very far. It would have been very convenient at this point to have Galan's map, as this was the area that he had mapped, but it was not to be.

In the room were some Giant Ants, such as have been encountered in this area before. This time the PCs didn't try engaging hand-to-hand (mano-a-mandible?) but instead used a Web spell to try to immobilise them. Four of the five were caught in the web and the other failed its morale check and ran from the party towards an exit in the south-east.

The party took a different door in the east wall - they knew they needed to head east - and making their way through a couple of smaller rooms, they came to a door that would not open - someone had spiked it from the other side! So, they smashed the door down, Cnut retrieved his spike (for it was that very same door), and finding themselves in the long corridor that leads to the steps out, they ran as fast as they could for the entrance...

I wonder if the reason the NPCs right at the beginning had become disorientated was because they'd got themselves teleported by mistake? It's a thought.