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.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Rift City - Session 26

Every so often I post on various local Facebook gaming groups to advertise the continued existence of The Wandering Monster Table. The point is after all that it's an open table and everyone is welcome. Sometimes, that means we get new players. Sometimes ...

Today (actually, Sunday 8th September), the dice-gods decided that many new people would come along. So along with some old hands, a bunch of fresh young PCs (relatively fresh and young, to make the integration process easier for new people, the new PCs start at the lowest level in the party) joined the party for a trip to the caves.

So, the party consisted of:

Brigham (3rd Level Cleric);
Cnut (3rd Level Fighter);
Feign* (2nd Level Cleric);
Gell* (2nd Level Fighter);
Gibbet (4th Level Thief);
Grimble* (2nd Level Magic User);
Karensa (3nd Level Elf);
Marl (2nd Level Halfling);
Rannock* (2nd Level Fighter)

*characters of the new players

The first thing was getting the two groups together. This is relatively easy, new adventurers in Rift City tend to turn up at the Travellers' Inn at the Rift-end of the High Street. It's about the only place they can afford. But that's also where the PCs meet up for breakfast when they're adventuring, so the two groups were sitting eating and drinking in the inn (pub) next to each other... as they were in real life. Spooky, huh?

Next, deciding where to go. The new members have never been to the caves, so the veteran PCs suggested the same location that they visited twice in the last few sessions - the tunnels with the portcullises (Session 25 link, Session 23 link).

This area is all dressed stone and regular corridors. That in theory makes it easier to map. Hahahaha! More on that shortly...

Venturing into the dark, the marching order was Marl, Rannock and Brigham up front, Gibbet, Grimble and Feign in the middle, and Karensa, Gell and Cnut bringing up the rear. The idea I think was to put a demi-human both fore and aft to use infravision to spot nasties, and of course to protect the rather squishy, non-plate-armoured specialists, Gibbet and Grimble. Feign I think was just being cowardly.

There is a very long tunnel just in from the entrance, and it has a door off it to the right. They headed for the far end of the corridor, ignoring the door.

I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that this is what the PCs have mapped. I'm quite good enough with image manipulation software to have changed anything that is on the map that the PCs haven't found, so they shouldn't take this as a representation of 'reality' - this is, to my understanding, their map of what's been found.

The stairs in the top right come down from a natural cave in the side of the Rift.

The room at the bottom of the corridor has four sconces on the walls that have torches in them; it also contains a pool on the north wall. The room to the west of it, through the door, also contains a pool/fountain, on the south wall this time, and this was where the Giant Ants had been residing in the previous session.

You should be able to see that a few of the 'doors' are marked with dots rather than a block - these are portcullises rather than doors as such.

The PCs decided that instead of trying to lift the portcullis, they'd batter it down. This was pretty successful but obviously made a certain amount of noise. Soon after Rannock had smashed his way into the room beyond, PCs became aware that someone was following them. Whether the the someone - or perhaps someones - had come through the western door they didn't know.

Turns out they were Lizardfolk. One of the Lizardpeople approached the party slowly, but as no-one spoke the Lizardman language, it was difficult to communicate. Karensa decided to end the standoff by shooting an arrow at the lead Lizarddude, and all hell broke loose. The Lizardbeings charged and a short but brutal combat ensued: 6 dead Lizardthings and no dead party.

Looting the corpses produced an unexpectedly large stash, so the party high-tailed it back to town, stashed the loot and scurried back to the caves.

Pushing on from the room with the torches, the PCs turned west. This is where the Giant Ants had been hanging out and sure enough there were more Giant Ants in the room. The party is mostly sporting platemail and is therefore pretty difficult to hit, but Giant Ants are tough cookies and it wasn't plain sailing. At some point during the session I know Karensa was injured (slightly, she's 3rd Level and it was only a couple of hp damage) and I suspect it was here. However, once the Ants were dead, the party did find a cache of treasure in a crack in the wall, so it looked like they'd have a pretty decent haul in the end.

Further exploration beyond the room of Ants led them to a fairly small group of Orcs, who the party butchered in pretty short order. The Orcs didn't have any proper treasure, however, so the PCs pushed on in an abandoned store-room and here the party encountered some Zombies. These were in part dealt with by the Clerics, both of whom took a hand in the Turning, though some still remained, and these proved to be a bit tougher than the Orcs, but at last the PCs had battered them to jelly.

Deciding for sure after all this hard work that it was time to go, the party made their way out and trooped back to town to count their loot after a hard day!

Friday, 6 September 2019

Lists of characters (Rift City recap)

There was a title of a post in my list (saved as a draft) but there was no post. I can't remember what I intended to have here. So instead of whatever I was going to do... have this series of lists, that are something of a review of the first two years of the campaign (up to and including Session 25, the campaign's second birthday).

First is the list of the 26 PCs that I can remember and reconstruct who have braved the caves so far, in approximately the order they joined the 'Rift City Campaign' (those in italics are the surviving PCs of more-or-less regular players):

1. Gwynthor (C)
2. Gibbet (T)
3. Polly (MU)†
4. Redvers (D) (retired)
5. Shazam (E)
6. Ays (H)
7. Frost (F)
8. Sven (D)†
9. Len (T)†
10. Galan (E)
11. Bob (F)†
12. Cnut (F)
13. Berg (D)

14. Karensa (E)
15. Daisy (H)
16. Gene (F)†
17. Marl (H)
18. Bonjella (E)†
19. Flenzack (C)
20. Brüna (D)
21. Bunny (H)
22. Greydon (MU)
23. Karina (T)
24. Elenya (E)
25. Brigham (C)
26. Nelson (MU)

Obviously with PC deaths, new PCs are created - one 'flow' of PCs is Polly-Bonjella-Brigham, one is Len-Bob-Cnut, Sven's player next played with Daisy, and Redvers' player retired him and played with Galan from then on.

Next, some of the NPCs the PCs have come into contact with at the inn - these are other adventurers:

Fanfarron, the charismatic fighter;
Dymphna, the dextrous Elf;
Seggulf, the angry Dwarf;
Vortigern, the sappy cleric - this one I seem to recall is deceased;
Hannam, the ugly magic-user;
Kastarys, the sinister magic-user;
Valakar, the dashing fighter;
Rhigat, the enthusiastic cleric;
Slith, the enigmatic thief;
Zanok, the dependable fighter,
Keln, the carefree fighter.

Some readers may recognise some or all of those names. They're 'found characters' (I changed Seggulf's name from the anagramatic 'Fuggles', which was too much even for me) that I had printed out as pre-gens should anyone at the early sessions want to play with a pre-gen. Nobody did, so these 11 became the other adventurers hanging around in the inn, from which rival parties could be drawn, or NPCs hired if the PCs wanted to go down that road. In the end, two of these characters have been adventuring with the party, which I believe were Zanok the fighter, and Vortigern the Cleric, in the 5th session (post about that here). Vortigern unfortunately was killed, by Giant Lizards, apparently, and so was Fighter Bob, by Stirges, though I couldn't at the time remember that he was indeed called 'Fighter Bob'.

There is another NPC Cleric with whom the PCs have adventured - Ademus, Cleric of Yrt (the same religion as Gwynthor). Some time ago now, he went to the caves, trying to find Ulfang the Black, taking an adventuring party of Fanfarron, Dymphna, Seggulf, Hannam, and another Cleric called Vitalinus. They never returned... even though Ulfang the Black is now dead, at the hands of the PCs. Whether Ademus and his friends are dead, captured, or lost and wandering somewhere in the caves, is not currently known.

Of the non-adventuring denizens of Rift City, the PCs have met Gisuintha, a Magic User who lives in a nice house in a slightly swankier part of town (several of the PCs have visited her, to have items identified, or to sell the multifarious parts of interesting animals); Perla, the Halfling proprietrix of the inn/brothel across the road from their inn (Gibbet has also determined that she's a Thieves' Guild contact); there are a couple of Elves at the Sanctuary (the main Elven temple in town) - these include Corrga, the oldest and most venerable of the Elves, who has performed a Remove Curse spell on Galan, and Eglil, an enigmatic silver-haired Elf who has been searching for a Halfling bard to sing a particular song for his master; there is the Town Clerk, who helped to arrange Galan and Karensa buying a house (but I don't think they learned his name); and there is the Mayor of Rift City, Jasper Grubbily, who is a respectable Halfling member of the business community.

Not sure what other locals the PCs have encountered. There was a wizard who seemed to have been imbibing too many of his own potions, and there were some Dwarves that they met in the caves, that Berg took a liking to (she went to visit them at their inn, the Broken Hammer, round the corner from the inn where the PCs hang out), but I don't recall their names.

There's also Marjory (or some name that sounds like it) who was a Gnome the PCs rescued.

Then there have been several Orcs and Kobolds (usually called 'Keith') that Shazam has enchanted, and of course Ningal ('the Mad Witch', as the PCs call her, though on what basis they've decided she's mad isn't really clear to me), in the caves.

Of course, in terms of named antagonists, there was also Ulfang the Black, dead Kobold Lord, as mentioned above.

Who else? What other NPCs have flitted their way through the adventure over two years? I'm struggling to recall names, though there definitely have been more...

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Happy Birthday, Rift City! Session 25, and second anniversary

On Sunday 11th August, the Rift City Campaign, and my D&D group 'The Wandering Monster Table', had their second birthday. Technically, the second birthday of the Rift City campaign would not be until Tuesday 13th August, but 11th August was the 'the session on the second Sunday in August', and that's close enough as that was the day we inaugurated the group and began the campaign in August 2017. Calendar drift is not my fault! The campaign has been going for two years (and anyway, the 13th was yesterday so it's two years anyway)!

It feels like a decent time to reflect on what we've accomplished. We've had 25 sessions, which have included 30 days of playing-time (if my calculations are correct); we've had 18 players (and me) turn up to games in that time and 6 PC deaths; one of the PCs has reached 4th Level and several 3rd Level; they've explored around 100 rooms on Levels 1 & 2 of a dungeon that I've been building (slowly) that currently contains more than 1,200 rooms (I haven't checked lately, it may be more than 1,500). I suppose an average session has around 6 PCs, though the smallest number so far is 2, the largest I think 11. 22 of the 25 sessions have been in public places where anyone can join in, and that's the point (the other three sessions were held at Berg & Galan's house when we were temporarily homeless). Except one session when I was away, we've played on the second Sunday of the month in that time (I suggested that in order to keep the regular format, someone else could run a one-shot, but the players decided they'd rather I DMed so the session was moved by 1 week). That is a remarkable degree of consistency, I think

I have to mention the great staff at the Black Horse in Aylestone (Facebook page linked here). We've been going down there for the last few months, since our previous venue closed, and they've been very nice to us - making us little reserved signs with messages on saying things like 'Reserved for Elves, Goblins and Minotaurs' and 'Reserved for Questors for the Wand of Wonder' and similar messages. They really are very nice, and it turns out that one of the management used to play fantasy quest computer games back in the 1990s... which ones I don't actually know, but maybe Baldur's Gate? I have told her, she should book a Sunday night off and come and join us. We'll see.

A very different constellation of party-members this session. Of the people who were there last time...

Cnut's player is on holiday, so wasn't available.

Shazam's player was at a family wedding and also was not available.

Nelson's player however was there, the only one from last session.

Of the habitual attendees (obviously, there are a lot more people who've only attended one or two sessions)...

Galan is still suffering from a curse, and I think his player wants him fit before adventuring again.

Berg's player is also on holiday.

Marl's player was at a festival I think.

Karensa's player made!

Gibbet''s player made it!

Brigham's player made it!

Gwynthor's player... well, no-one really knows. He told us he was coming, but we didn't see him!

There was some discussion between Nelson, Gibbet, Brigham and Karensa as to whether they should venture down into the scary Level 2 or stick to the relative safety of Level 1; and as to whether they should hire some meatshields to help, but in the end they decided that it would be Level 2 with no hirelings - the most dangerous (but hopefully most lucrative) option.

The cave entrance they went for was the same as Session 23, the Level 2 entrance on the downhill side of the road. Entering they found it looked undisturbed from last time, but Karensa, remembering that last time they'd encountered a Gelatinous Cube, decided that a reasonable course of action was to shoot an arrow down the corridor and find out if it made a clattering noise or a kind of floopy plop. Happily, it was a clatter, so they crept on. As they ventured down the corridor however they realised that they'd been followed - a mountain lion had strayed inside, seemingly hunting them. They attacked it, and as it (insanely) charged them, arrows already sticking out of it, Nelson the Magic User used his Magic Missile to kill it - just before Karensa and Gibbet both shot it. Gibbet and Karensa retrieved their arrows. Nelson didn't retrieve his spell.

Not perhaps the most efficient use of a Magic Missile but Nelson really didn't want the first encounter of the evening to be up close with a rampaging mountain lion, and who can blame him? Never mind, he still had Web, as well as Read Languages... hoping that some scrolls might appear at some point. Poking around in the entrails, Gibbet found a coin-bag with some copper that the lion must have swallowed at some point.

Venturing on, the party came to wooden portcullis - 'slightly burnt' it said in my notes, as the last time they were here the PCs tried to set fire to it. It had been impossible to open, two days ago - now it opened with ease. On the far side, the PCs found a room, lit by torches stuck in sconces on the walls, that contained a semi-circular pool of water. Of course, what they did was throw the Mountain Lion carcass into the pool to see if there was any magical effect. Isn't that what you would do?

There were two other exits to the room, one opposite the door they'd entered and one to the right. They tried the door to the right and when they got it open, realised that there was a large hall-like room beyond the door. The far end was too far to make out, even with Infravision. Also, near the far end (I randomly determined how far away) there was a collection of gigantic ants. The PCs shot some arrows at them, then retreated to the door so they could control the frontage the ants could attack on. A couple more hits on the lead ant without it going down was starting to worry the players I could see. Gibbet was remembering the last time they'd encountered some, and how much carnage had ensued. This was in Session 21, and then Gibbet had had to beg a Healing Potion from Karensa because he'd sustained some heavy damage. Well, probably, this time he did too. Certainly there was some damage about. But, Nelson cast Web and the giant ants were stuck trying to get through the door.

This was the party's cue to run away (stopping only to definitely kill the one ant that had got through the doorway and grab one of the torches from the wall - Nelson was damn sure he wasn't wasting his own torches if people were giving them away for free), then start shooting arrows down corridors again, in case the Gelatinous Cube was lurking. Eventually, as they traversed a very long corridor, the Cube moved to attack; but they don't move very fast, so the party retreated up the corridor peppering it with arrows until it exploded.

Moving forward again (taking care to once more loot the gooey mess and this time pick up some gold) the PCs turned north, hoping I think to get into the rear of the ants' room. However, as they'd made a mistake with their map (they'd only drawn the corridor as 120', though I told them it was around 150') the corridor they went north up led them to a different room. This one had a sliding door on the east wall, which led to a room that contained some Shriekers, who of course freaked out at the light and noise. Shriekers don't harm adventurers, just summon things that do harm them, so butchering the giant mushrooms quickly became a priority. However, it wasn't fast enough to shut up the Shriekers' alarms, as shortly afterwards some shambling figures appeared in the room behind the party.

Zap! Karensa cast Sleep at them. Oof! the party said, as I told them it didn't seem to have any effect. Another spell wasted, as these were Ghouls. A short and vicious fight ensued, with no-one succumbing to Ghoul-touch, and the Ghouls were defeated, and quickly looted, whereup a nice haul of funerary jewellery was discovered. Also part of the treasure in the room was more coinage, and an axe leaning against a wall. In Basic D&D, Magic Users are only permitted to use daggers, and Clerics are not allowed to use edged weapons, so only Gibbet the Thief and Karensa the Elf could have taken the axe to use anyway; but Karensa already has a magic sword, so Gibbet took it.

Heading out again, the PCs realised that some more monsters were investigating the Shriekers' noise - this time some large flying insects coming down the corridor at them. The party disposed of them but several people were bitten. Again it was giant insects that ended up doing the damage, with the less-armoured Nelson and Gibbet getting the worst of it I think. I'm sure that, by the end of the session, everyone had taken damage but Brigham, and both Brigham and Karensa had used their healing magic (Cure Light Wounds and a Potion of Healing respectively, Brigham I think on Nelson and Karensa on herself).

So, somewhat depleted in resources, the party decided to head for home. As they passed the room where they'd fought the ants, they realised that the web, the ants and the lion had all gone, back they surmised into the room where the ants had been originally. Sneaking past they made a break for the exit - but between them and safety was a bunch of angry giant centipedes. However, they don't have many missile weapons, so the party again peppered them arrows from down the corridor. Five died; the other two, deciding they didn't like the hail of death much, retreated. The PCs ran the last bit I think and made it back into the clean air once more, to fight another day.

Heading for home, they would no doubt have noticed the beginning of the Lunar Eclipse that was a feature of the calendar I'd noticed recently (I generated the calendar some time ago from Donjon's Fantasy Calendar Generator). I'd told Galan's player that this was when the Elves at the Sanctuary would perform a Remove Curse spell for him, as eclipses were especially auspicious times for such magic.

Dividing up the loot the PCs found they'd come away with a decent haul - a couple of thousand in jewellery and platinum pieces and a couple of hundred in loose change, as well as a potentially magic hand-axe, which was OK between four. And nobody died!

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Seven NPCs, and the lifespans of Demi-humans

Here are seven NPCs, one of each of the character classes from Moldvay. Details are random generations from Seventh Sanctum and Seventh Order of the Random Generator, where they aren't directly generated by rolling electronic dice from the WotC electric dice app. I rolled d10 Level; apparent/equivalent age is 20+d20, except if Level is less than 5, in which case it's 15+d10, because if they're less than 5th Level, they're effectively a youngster (and I rolled Level first, instead of making Level a function of age, which would have been more sensible).

These people are essentially magical prisoners, and the magical effect is a kind of stasis. My PCs may at some point stumble on them, but of course, they may not. Apparent age is subjective age - I don't know how long they've been imprisoned, so 'apparent age' is basically 'number of years from birth until magical trapping'; equivalent age for the Demi-humans is pretty much what I reckon the developmental stage of the individual is compared to a human lifespan - which is what leads on to the second half of the post.

Female Cleric - Braeth Carellen - 7th Level: apparent age 23
Str 11 Int 14 Wis 16 Dex 7 Con 10 Cha 13
Content and systematic; she is concerned about the heretic toadmen in the salt-marshes

Female Dwarf - Eida Grimsilver - 10th Level: equivalent age 32 (age in years 128)
Str 15 Int 5 Wis 11 Dex 6 Con 15 Cha 8
Stereotypical, but insincere; she only has one eye

Male Elf - Taraneer Moonsword - 4th Level: equivalent age 19 (age in years - don't know: 19... 100... 1000?)
Str 13 Int 15 Wis 16 Dex 11 Con 10 Cha 12
Shrewd and selfish; has tattooed eyelids (a lion surrounded by petals on left lid chases a winged fish on the right)

Male Fighter - Ryon Crawn - 9th Level: apparent age 25
Str 14 Int 5 Wis 11 Dex 9 Con 11 Cha 17
Alternately savage and fussy; he wants to trap a giant lizard

Male Halfling - Bonifer Warren - 4th Level: equivalent age 23 (age in years 36)
Str 13 Int 12 Wis 9 Dex 15 Con 8 Cha 12
Upbeat and enigmatic; he used to be a gladiator

Male Magic User - Howland Banroth - 6th Level: apparent age 36
Str 7 Int 15 Wis 8 Dex 12 Con 11 Cha 8
Both softly-spoken and fabulous; wears high shiny boots

Female Thief - Thealil Ember - 8th Level: apparent age 35
Str 7 Int 5 Wis 14 Dex 14 Con 5 Cha 13
Comes across as engaging and receptive; is a recovering addict

All of this raises questions. Taraneer Moonsword for example. Why 'Moonsword'? Is this a family name, a gang-type nickname or because he owned a special blade called the Moonsword? If the Moonsword is a thing, does Taraneer still have it, what are its powers and its value? And what (if anything) do his tattoos mean?

Will Ryon Crawn get to trap his giant lizard? Where? How?

What was Thealil Ember addicted to? Is she going to go off the rails now she's been freed?

Why is Braeth Carellen concerned about the toad-men? What is the nature of their heresy? Are they really so bad? And what have they been doing since she was imprisoned?

And that's another set of questions, regarding how long these people have been here. Days? Years? Millennia? Do they know, or will it be a s
hock? Is everyone they know dead? Has the Moonsword rusted, have the toad-men gone to hell with their heresy, are the giant lizards extinct? Or have they only been gone a matter of months or years, and can pick up the threads of their lives?

As for the ages of the Demihumans... I've never really had a settled way of working them out, instead just picking numbers that 'feel right'. I tend to assume something like Tolkienish lifespans for Halflings and Dwarves. I've been a Tolkien fan for longer than I've played D&D - in fact, I got into D&D as a way to 'play' Middle Earth (or something like it), so it's always been a huge influence on my thinking. Playing B/X, my Halflings in effect 'are' Hobbits - a sort of rural race of short Humans who like pie, beer and practical jokes, if they don't take too much effort. Some of them may call themselves 'Nelwyn' and refer to a hero called 'Willow'; some others might call themselves 'Hin' or 'Kender'. Players may have their own ideas about their PCs. All that doesn't matter. Halflings mostly still live in agricultural villages, elect their own magistrates (who are often called Sheriffs) and have big feasts. They are definitely like Hobbits even if not necessarily identical to them.

For Hobbits in the Shire, 'coming of age' is 33 - at least it is for males, and that's all I have to go on. Past 50 is regarded as a settled and respectable age. 111 is a grand old age, 120 is extremely noteworthy. So, more or less humans + 50% I reckon. 33 is close to 21+10.5. 50 is approximately equivalent to 34 for humans, 105 is 70+35, so 120, at 80+40, probably would be noteworthy. As a rule of thumb it seems to work OK. So for Bonifer Warren (above) his 'human' age of 23 - early manhood in other words - equates to about 36 as an actual Halfling age. If I wanted to get really granular, I'd say he's 35, and close to his 36th birthday.

Taking a similar tack with Tolkien's ages for the Dwarves: 100 is still young - Fili and Kili hadn't reached their first century (being 82 and 77 years respectively), and were the youngsters in the Quest for Erebor and regarded as 'rookies'. But more than 200 is pretty venerable; up til now I've somewhat flown by the seat of my pants and multiplied by between 3 and 4 to reach a Dwarf-age. But perhaps it should be 4-5 that is the proper range. If Fili and Kili were conceptually at least in their late teens or early twenties, and inexperienced compared to the likes of Thorin, Balin and Gloin, who were seasoned warriors, but Dain Ironfoot was very old (at 252) at the time of the War of the Ring, that implies the flourit of a Dwarf male (again, pretty much all of the information we have is about males) is approximately from the first to the second century of life. I guess this corresponds more or less to 25-50 for humans. Dain's 252 years on 4x reckoning is therefore the equivalent of 63 for a human male - when perhaps being a war-leader is not generally high on the list of men's priorities, and an old warrior could maybe have expected some sort of retirement, leaving the actual fighting to younger men. Fili on the other hand would be the equivalent of 20, and Kili 19. They might be very well regarded as young and inexperienced. If we take 5x as the base, then Fili would be the equivalent of 16, Kili 15, and Dain 50. These seem low estimates. Of course, Fili and Kili would be young and inexperienced at 15 and 16, but they're young untried warriors, not children, in the Hobbit, and if Dain is 50, that doesn't seem so old that he'd be venerable; so perhaps 4x is about right for Dwarves.

Elves are a problem for many reasons in D&D; one of the problems is age. How old are Elves, exactly? I'm not sure there is a definitive answer. Tolkien's Elves are functionally immortal, and some at least in the stories are thousands of years old. Elrond has lived for more than 6,000 years, Galadriel perhaps between 8 and 9,000 years. We don't really know how old Legolas is; he is the most active Elven character in the stories (at least, Tolkien's stories - I'm not concerned with Jackson's retellings here), the closest to a 'young warrior' and therefore - maybe! - an analogue for the PCs at the beginnings of their adventuring careers. The best and brightest minds among Tolkien scholars seem to think that Thranduil lived in Menegroth in the First Age, making him more than 6,000 years old; he made the move from Southern to Northern Mirkwood, around TA1000, and Legolas seems to have been after this, because it was after the separation of the Elves of Mirkwood and Lorien. However, Legolas was vastly older than the other members of the Fellowship, whom he called 'children' (presumably, excepting Gandalf, but not Aragorn). Aragorn is at this point 87 (approximately equivalent to 29 for the Dunedain) and Gimli is 139 (140 would be equivalent to 35 by my reckoning of 4x). So, if this is accepted, 2,000 years seems to be the maximum age for Legolas, but surely not less than many hundred years for his minimum age. He also says that he has 'watched many an oak grow from an acorn to ruinous age', which may imply he's more than 1,000. In Rohan he declares that the 500 years or so of the history of Rohan are 'but little time' to the Elves. It seems reasonable then that Legolas is around 1,500-2,000 years old.

But D&D Elves aren't necessarily Tolkien Elves. It seems that in different editions of D&D, Elves live for between 500 and perhaps 1200 years, and 'young' Elves beginning their adventuring careers may be between 25 and 125 years (not that I remember that info from any B/X-related material). B/X doesn't really deal with this as far as I've ever found. I've never come across anything to do with it in the modules or stuff from Dragon either. I do have some things from the old Pelinore setting from Imagine, which is a) official D&D and b) B/X compatible - I shall check there and see if there is anything that has bearing on this issue (I don't remember if people's ages are given in the text - if they are, the ages of any Elf NPCs might provide some useful information).

Anyway, 'young' Elves who are mortal and die after about 1200 years (I think this is how it worked in AD&D 2e, if I recall correctly) might not be how it works in my campaign. I don't have a problem with vastly old Elves, as long as it's understood that that doesn't mean that they have extra knowledge - not about anything useful at any rate. Sure they were alive on 12th Grune, 406 years ago, but that doesn't mean they attended the burial of Jarl Ragnald or know anything about what happened to his magic sword. They can however tell you exactly how the light looked through the trees (and what sort of the trees they were, in what season) as Marulan played the harp and Aldriana sang the Lay of Lost Tarathiel (and how her cloak wove patterns in the air, and who wove the cloak, and what the names were of the grandparents of the person who wove the cloak, and what was the smell of the air in the twilight as Aldriana sang, and every single word and how it referred to all the Tales before of the Age-long yearning heartbreak of the Elves...) because at the time, that was much more important.

Now some buzzing Humans want to find a stick or a bauble or something. How does that compare to 10,000 years of tragedy? Why would Elves notice what Humans, Dwarves, Orcs or whoever else was up to, most of the time? Going adventuring might be diverting, especially if involves new things, places, people, but in that case, they're deliberately trying to go beyond what they know, and probably therefore don't have special knowledge about it. Some big-picture stuff maybe ("before the Time of the Warlords, the Ebon Empire flourished - but now that people are like the leaves of a forgotten Autumn..."), but maybe not even that. As Legolas's quote about Rohan shows, even Human kingdoms are fleeting to Elves. Maybe some legends about dragons, but any detailed stuff? Maybe not. Details about a specific time or place might be details about something utterly inconsequential, from a quest point of view. How would they have known, 406 years ago, exactly what they were going to need to know in the future? Elves are pretty clever, but unless they have precognition and already have found out what they will need to know, they may not have better access than anyone else to relevant historical data. Seems like that could be how it could work to avoid the logical problem of the Elven characters being expected to know details that would help the party.

So, I'm rather minded to say that any Elves in my campaign can be as old as their players like, from about 20 (assuming growth of infant Elves at more-or-less the same rate as humans) to perhaps 2,000 (which I'm assuming is about 30, probably at the top end of Legolas's apparent age). This implies that Elves would age on something like the following basis: 1-20 - as humans; 21-2,000 - 1/66 the rate of humans; then maybe 2,000-4,000 - 1/200 the rate of humans (4,000 is about 40?); 4,000-9,000 - 1/500 the rate for humans (9,000 is approximately equivalent to 50). If players want their PCs to be older than 'early 20s or equivalent' they can use this rough guide. One of my players wanted to play a middle-aged human Fighter, so perhaps someone will decide they want a middle-aged Elf too. I probably don't need any Elves in my campaign world who are more than about 10,000 years old, so I'll regard 9,000 years (as I say, Galadriel's approximate age at the time of the War of the Ring) as the top end of Elven ages for practical purposes. But in terms of 'quest-knowledge', the point is that all that time, the Elves weren't paying attention to anything that might be important, unless it directly involved Elves, and even then, maybe they just don't know what Queen Faliria was up to. Would some random Wood-Elf from Lorien know what was going on in the White Council? Probably not; so probably some random Wood-Elf from Canolbarth Forest or some such probably wouldn't know what the Elven aristocracy in Mystara had been up to either, except in general terms.

Whether the PCs should be just 'some random Wood-Elf from Canolbarth Forest' is another matter however...