Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Questing in Elfgames VII - Quest and Anti-quest

Let us assume that the PCs agree to play a game in which there is a quest. They must, I think, therefore be in favour of the general aims of the quest. Does it necessarily follow, however, that all of them must be in agreement over the methods used to fulfil the quest?

A thought experiment, once more based on Lord of the Rings (not the first time I have done this I admit). The quest in Lord of the Rings is to destroy the Ring by taking it to Orodruin. However, Boromir, in 'Minority Report' style, departs from the consensus and wants to use the Ring as a weapon against Mordor. Both viewpoints are about fighting Sauron, one by destroying a powerful artefact that could be used by the baddies, the other by using the artefact against the baddies. In this thought-experiment version, Boromir takes the Ring from Frodo at Amon Hen. What happens next?

Boromir has fallen under the baleful influence of the Ring, but hasn't changed sides; he is still opposed to Sauron, and wants to use it as a weapon against Sauron for the good of Gondor (as he sees it). He's not going to ally himself with the Orcs in the woods, they and he are still still enemies. The rest of the party... err, Fellowship... wants to 'rescue', not fight, him, even if they fundamentally disagree with his perspective. So, Boromir is still fighting the Orcs, but not allowing the Fellowship to stop him taking the Ring to Minas Tirith. He battles his way to Gondor, and from there the plot takes a different turn as the now Ring-wielding Gondorian forces both resist Sauron and are corrupted from the inside.

There are some successes for Gondor due to wielding the Ring but also increasing jealousy between Boromir and Denethor, as well as paranoia in the Gondor command about 'internal enemies' (not helped by Faramir throwing in his lot with Aragorn's 'loyal opposition'). This leads to a nightmare 3-way war between the forces of Sauron, the Ring-wielding Gondorian faction around Boromir (after a power-struggle, Boromir kills Denethor and takes absolute control) and the Aragorn/Faramir faction, waging guerrilla war from Ithilien, fighting off the Gondorian loyalists as well as Mordor, but also trying to unite all the anti-Mordor forces. Ultimately, Aragorn's guerrillas break into Minas Tirith and steal the Ring before racing to destroy it in Mt Doom. Boromir, perhaps, is unsavable, and resists the Aragornian 'rebellion' to the end, but ultimately the Ring is destroyed and Gondor saved.

Is something like this a reasonable version of 'the Quest'? It's not Tolkien's story but is it a reasonable, workable, even playable departure from it? I think it is. It's maybe a bit more 'Game of Thrones' (or even 'Star Wars') than 'Lord of the Rings', but I can see how it might work. There's no reason why this couldn't be the unfolding story of a game based on the starting-point of 'The Lord of the Rings'.

In the Quest for the Relics of McGuffin, the Sages of the Unpr'Onounc'Eable Temple want the Relics brought back to the Temple so they can use them to defeat Lord Doombad. Let's say the NPC Sage Andonion has roped in Scrofula the Thief, who is a PC, to bring back one of McGuffin's relics, the Spoon of Density, from the Dank Citadel. However, Scrofula, having gone to to the Dank Citadel with his mates (the rest of the party) and liberated the the Spoon of Density, decides he wants to go off-piste and uses it to attack Lord Doombad instead of taking it back to the Sages. Is this reasonable?

It might not be in a novel (I don't know, actually maybe it would) but it should be in a game. A quest does not necessarily imply unanimity about methods, just aims. In 'Lord of the Rings' everyone wants Sauron defeated, but they disagree about how that is best done. That should be OK in a game too, and it should be possible to change course to fulfil the quest. The Sage Andonion has engaged the PCs - somehow! (and that 'how?'still requires some thinking about) - in a quest (getting the Spoon from the Dank Citadel will somehow help defeat Lord Doombad... either because the Spoon is a powerful artefact and it will help to add its power to the good side, or to deny its power to the evil side) but the PCs have autonomy to carry out the quest in the way they see fit. How they see that will depend on the setup, how the information is actually given to them, and how much they trust the veracity or sagacity of their quest patron.

But probably I need to keep picking away at those things, so I'll leave this here for the moment.

Happy Christmas, and whatever else you may be celebrating.


Saturday, 15 December 2018

Rift City session 17

So, the 17th session of Wandering Monster Table and the Rift City campaign...

A few of the usual players couldn't make this session, so the party consisted of:

Bonjella the 1st Level Elf;
Galan the 1st Level Elf;
Gene the 2nd Level Fighter;
Gibbet the 3rd Level Thief;
Karensa the 1st Level Elf.

Their plan was again to raid the 'Bath-house of Blibdoolpoolp'. I rolled for Ademus the Priest's reaction - he wasn't having any of it, preferring to follow up on the rumour that Ulfang the Black was in another part of the complex, so Ademus has gone adventuring with another group. The PCs might hear what happened about this when they get back to town.

Today, on approaching the entrance cavern, the party saw that the door was smashed and there was excrement around the doorway. There's no reason for any of them to be experts in animal excrement (except Gene who it's previously established was brought up on a farm, but this didn't look like any kind of excrement Gene had encountered) so they were none the wiser. They wondered if it was Giant Bat guano, as they'd run into one of those previously in this area (maybe last session thinking about it, probably could have mentioned that in the last write-up).

It wasn't bats; the PCs leapt into the room and were confronted by some (3) Harpies who had moved in to the cave entrance. The PCs had surprised them for sure but the Harpies were tough; the 3 Elves, after managing to get some wounds in, all failed their saving throws against the Harpies' song and it was left to Gene and Gibbet to dispatch two of them while the third fled, horribly injured. In the meantime however, both humans took injuries. Searching the room produced a big sack of coins that went straight into Galan's Bag of Holding.

Moving on to the next room, they found the door wedged from the other side (presumably to stop the Harpies getting into the rest of the dungeon). Being 4/5 clad in plate, the PCs barged the door down, and slammed into the next room. Finding some Orcs in there, Bonjella used her Sleep spell on them and the PCs then slit their throats. Looting the bodies and the room produced a big red gem and some Orc swords (which were soon discarded).

The section of 'The Bath-house of Blibdoolpoolp' that the PCs have explored
Heading south out of the Orcs' room, the PCs came to an open area with various doors coming off it. Having already explored quite a lot towards the east (the library, tannery, Kobold temple where the PCs smashed a statue of Kurtalmuk, wine cellar and the 'necro-room', which contained Giant Rats and a lot of skulls and candles had all been explored in the previous two visits), the party turned west. The ignored the teleport room (the small room at the far end of the north-west corridor) and instead made for the room marked 'rats' on my map. Listening at the door indeed allowed them to hear that something was within - not Kobolds however. A somewhat complicated plan ensued with the door being quickly opened and a lit torch thrown in. When the (Giant) Rats inside panicked and made for the door, the party quickly shut it.

Exactly what happened next I don't actually remember. There was definitely a fight with the Rats. The party made short work of the R.O.U.S. (3 dead and the other 4 so panicked that they turned and fled down a small hole), leaving time to search the room. Several things caught their attention. First, on a shelf along the north wall, five large jars stood in a row. Amidst the dust and slime and rat-crap, a small metal chest was also visible. Gibbet searched that, found no traps and tried to unlock it. He succeeded and the chest sprang open. Inside was a was a leather purse containing coins (209GP) and four ceramic vials in the shape of dragons emerging from eggs. Meanwhile, Galan discovered that the vases each contained hundreds of silver pieces. Everything went into the Bag of Holding.

There was also a gaggle of wandering Fire Beetles that turned up. Another Sleep spell dealt with them pretty quickly and the party harvested their glow-glands for sale to Gisuintha back in town. This may have been before the fight with the R.O.U.S. but I can't actually recall.

Pushing on through the Rat room, the party opened the western door. This led to a very strange room indeed. As soon as the door opened, a warm light and soothing music was heard. Having previously been victims of the Harpies' Charm, everyone freaked out and decided that they all needed to stuff things in their ears and wrap things round their heads to block out the sound. Only Gene refused to do so. 

I have to admit that I misread the room description when the PCs did go in. There was supposed to be some smashed furniture and disembodied harp music, but I told them there was an actual harp sitting on a somewhat smashed desk. D'oh. Now instead of a groovy room effect, they have an actual enchanted harp, because of course it ended up in the bag. Bonjella poked around in the smashed furniture, and unfortunately set off a surviving trap, being hit by a spring-loaded bolt, which caused her an injury but luckily not death. There was however also some cash lying about, a purse with coins in it that the trap was meant to protect.

That was about it for that room however, so with the harp and the cash, they opened another door - again, the western one. They could see about 10' away a curtain of water falling but could not see if the corridor continued beyond it. Leaving that for another day, they opened the door in the north wall. As that only seemed to lead to another corridor with several more doors, they retreated back the way they'd come and out of the Rat room.

Deciding that with three party-members injured, only one spell between them and a lot of loot, they might be best of heading back, they opted to try one last room and see what was what, so they chose to open the southern-most door in the wide section of corridor, into the room marked 'beetles' - in this case, more Fire Beetles. The room was some sort of mausoleum, with five large sarcophagi standing about, and the beetles running in between them, partly out of sight and definitely difficult to kill.

However, the party was determined to get them and add some more glands to the pile, so they marched through the room butchering the beetles. The attacks were maybe a little fierce however, as I ruled that most of the precious glands were destroyed and they only managed to get three out of a possible nine. Even so better than nothing and it rounded off the haul for the day. Disappointingly for the PCs, the sarcophagi turned out to be empty.

The PCs made it back to the entrance without incident, and high-tailed it to town with their loot. Totting up at the end of the session, Galan announced that he had also gone up a level. This levelling-up thing is catching. And now, the party has a spell-caster with two spells - what will they think of next?

Monday, 10 December 2018

Rift City Session 16

What can I say about this game?

Cnut the Fighter (2nd Level)
Galan the Elf (1st Level)
Gene the Fighter (1st Level)
Gibbet the Thief (2nd Level)
Gwynthor the Cleric (2nd Level)
Karansa the Elf (1st Level)
Shazam the Elf (1st Level) with Ugulmuk AKA Keith the Kobold, his Charmed henchbeing...

went dungeoneering with Ademus, the NPC Cleric.

The party had a new plan, to head back to 'The Bath-house of Blibdoolpoolp' where they had been in session 14. Ademus asked about Ulfang the Black (he's the focus of Ademus's quest) and the party assured him that there were Kobolds in this area too - it was just a case of finding out where Ulfang was. I rolled for Ademus's reaction and he seemed happy to go along with what the party was suggesting - as long as there would be Kobolds to kill he would be happy.

So off they went - sidling up to the door, where once before they had forced their way in and found Kobolds.

And kill Kobolds they did - and Giant Rats and some Zombies too. They found the key to a previously-locked room, and unlocked it. It was seemingly a kind of Kobold-temple. They searched the library again and stole some more books.

But this was now weeks ago and sadly I can't remember the details very well (I'm rubbish at keeping records of what the PCs are up to, beyond '6 dead Kobolds, 260cp looted' and such like.

What I do remember is that at the end of the session, Gibbet went up to 3rd Level and Gene went up to 2nd...

Monday, 26 November 2018

A co-operative megadungeon proposal

The idea here is a Megadungeon based on the London Tube Map. I'm calling it 'The Labyrinth of Nodnol'.

The iconic Tube Map from TfL
This map is pretty famous (link to Tranport for London site here) and shows a bunch of underground locations. Some of the names are pretty evocative - Baron's Court, Queensway, Redbridge, Barbican, Mudchute... there are two 'Arsenals' (ie weapon-stores) on the map. Some names may relate to monsters, and some of these come in clusters - there are a few in the north-east part of the centre that start 'Totten-' that might relate to undead for example, or in the south 'Peck-' names may be related to Halflings ('Peck' is a pejorative used by the humans about the Nelwyn in the film 'Willow'). Others may refer to Elves, Giants (or KGOHGBO, AD&D 'Giant Class' monsters), hammers and axes (Dwarves?), as well as various birds and trees, and maybe other creatures too. There are multiple routes around these underground locations, with differently-coloured passages that may (probably do) relate to different levels. There's a watercourse running through it.

To me, this all says that this is a megadungeon. I think on a quick and non-scientific count (possibly using a slightly-different version of the map, I used one that also listed the stations) that there are approximately 400 named locations on this map. Were each a room or cave, that would be a largish dungeon.

The way I'm envisioning it, some stations - those that just have a block, like this:

- will just be a room off a corridor. If possible, the name of the station should have something to do with the contents (that might be inhabitants, function either ancient or current, features, treasure or decoration).

Other stations, that are interchanges, are marked like this:

These will be intersections between corridors, entrances (like this one), or both (anything with the old British Rail logo, seen here in red and referring to a connection with the railway network, will be an entrance to the complex... I think there are at least 60 of these, maybe about 65).

The entrances might work like this (I'm assuming as a hypothetical that the Northern Line is Level 2 here, but the intersections can actually come between any number of lines and with the rail network):

Some things will take some thinking about. Stations where multiple lines converge might be stacked, something like this (again, this is only a hypothetical):

Here, the two N-S tunnels are at the same level, but the E-W level is a level lower. The room then spreads over more than one level, and I think that will definitely be the way forward with this. But lines that come to an intersection might not actually be together. The District (green) and Circle (yellow) lines mirror each other a lot. It might be better not to have two sets of corridors between the same locations on the same level.

I need to try to isolate the lines to work out which work best as being 'the same' levels and which would be better on different levels. I also need to work out what this means:


Is that one room accessible by two corridors? Is it two rooms, each accessible by different corridors? Is it two rooms in the same place on different levels? I don't think it can be a single room; that would necessarily make it an interchange (ie a way of getting from one corridor to another). It has then to be two rooms (either on the same or different levels). So I need to up the number of 'rooms' - each time a station like Bayswater appears it needs to be counted once for each line that comes in. Interchange locations are a bit trickier - one big room over different levels, or linked rooms? I guess the situation might have to dictate that. Perhaps one of the other symbols (there are two different wheelchair symbols) might be used to decide it - for example, if there's a wheelchair symbol there's 'access' between two (or more) rooms, where there's no wheelchair it's all one big room.
There are also some other symbols - a kind of 'long' (Latin) cross, a little like this † - which surely represents something. Death, it looks like. A trap? There aren't many of them and putting traps in the same places on different floors or in neighbouring but unconnected rooms (as would probably happen if this means 'trap') would be a bit predictable. Maybe more undead? I like the idea of monsters in clusters but not so keen on having areas of traps. OK if they're connected to a particular kind of monster (Kobolds are the obvious monster for trapping but Goblins and others might also be candidates for setting traps) but otherwise, trapped zones seem forced to me.

There are also seven stations (that I could see) where boat logos are displayed. The best reason for this is that it provides access to the ?underground water-course. I'll have to check the levels carefully to make sure these are all on the same dungeon level, or provide some good justification otherwise - an underground waterfall is fine to move from a higher to a deeper level, but makes travelling 'upstream' really tricky.

All of this I'm sure could combine into an interesting dungeon environment. But... I won't do it all. And that's why I think it would be a good thing to open it all up. Who wouldn't want to be part of building a co-operative megadungeon around the London Underground?


Thursday, 22 November 2018

Subverting setting expectations II - two suggestions for reskinning B/X

What if...

... there were no female Dwarves?

... there were no male Elves?

I quite like the idea of Elves and Dwarves being the somewhat sexually-dimorphic representatives of a single species (so the offspring of a Dwarf and an Elf would be an Elf or a Dwarf). Of course, assigning the sexes other way round is also possible, but 'The Dwarf-King' and 'The Elf-Queen' are probably more mythologically-grounded in the Western canon than the other way around. That in itself may be reason enough to insist on bearded Dwarf women and willowy Elf men, however.

There is no reason why this can't work with the standard B/X rules. There's nothing in the rules to say that Elves and Dwarves have to have stable nuclear families of their own species. There's nothing really in the fluff that says anything about Elven and Dwarven families either, but the point of the experiment is to remove the fluff anyway and just concentrate on what the rules tell us. The fluff says that Dwarves "often live underground", whereas Elves generally "spend their time feasting and frolicking in wooded glades" (B9). Both races enjoy feasts and exquisite craftsmanship. It's starting to sound to me like they may actually be the same race after all...

From: https://www.deviantart.com/staino/art/Dwarf-and-Elf-66453543

What if...

... the offspring of a male human and an Elf (always female) was a Halfling (of either sex)?

... the offspring of a female human and a Dwarf (always male) was also a Halfling?

Halflings, being either male or female, and en masse both male and female, work fine as a stable population in their own right. So there's no real reason to alter them, I decided. But, there would probably be Halfling communities near all of the others, and many Halflings living in and around Human, Elf or Dwarf settlements. Maybe fewer around Dwarf settlements, but still there perhaps. They make sense as the somewhat-odd offspring of these 'fair folk' and humans. After all, they look somewhat like Dwarves, and act somewhat like Elves... in fact this whole conception started with a desire to make a B/X campaign where people could play 'Half Elves' and 'Half Orcs'. I decided that if people wanted to play a race that was somewhat arboreally-inclined and good with missile weapons, a bit Ranger-ish, they should play a Halfling, as Halflings are the Rangers of B/X. By the same token, Dwarves are the Barbarians of B/X, and if someone wanted to play a Half-Orc (a race I believe that is often used as a basis for a Barbarian) they should play a Dwarf, ie an angry hitty thing. I came up with a chart that looked something like this:

What this means is that the child of an Elf-Human union would be a Halfling, the child of an Orc-Human union would be a Dwarf, and a Dwarf-Halfling union would produce a Human. By the same token an Elf-Orc union would also produce a Human, and an Elf-Dwarf union or Orc-Halfling union would a produce a human half the time (the other half being, respectively, Halflings and Dwarves). I never did run this, because to be honest the presence of Orcs bothered me; for this to work maybe they need to be a playable race.

But, taking this basic idea (that the races are just blendings of other races), I then played around and decided that male Dwarves and female Elves as members of the 'Fair Folk', and Halflings as 'Half-Fey', might actually make more sense.

I do not propose to run this as a campaign. It is more of a thought experiment at the moment, part of my poking into what B/X can actually be made to do without doing any violence to the rules.

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An alternative D&D setting

Keep Humans but scrap the other three PC races. Elves, Dwarves and Halflings, as presented in B/X, are pretty much tied to tropes inherited from Lord of the Rings, and beyond that to various bits of European literature like the Morte d'Arthur. Instead, non-Human PCs can be Chandali (tricksy, nimble forest-living folk, a bit like non-shit Ewoks), Voorn (mostly tough angry fighty dudes with some construction-related skills - I imagine them as somewhat rocky and trollish) and Jadarath (tall noble blue-furred tiger-people who combine fighting and magic).

In other words use exactly the same rules, but change some names and descriptions to get a different take on some familiar fantasy tropes. There's nothing in the rules to connect Elves with forests per se, or Dwarves with mining and smithing. So re-skinning them means cutting away the 'cultural baggage' derived from Tolkien and re-imaging what the rules could refer to in a different setting.

In this new setting, it's the Chandali who live in the forests, in Ewok-like villages high in the trees. The Jadarath live in towering cities wreathed in cloud and are something like Furry Jedi seen through the lens of the Mahabharata. The Voorn, I'm not so sure about yet, I need to think about them more, to find ways of not making them 'Dwarvish'. They can still all fit into the Quest for the Relics of McGuffin, which I take as being the default overarching plot in so far as there is one for D&D.

I originally came up with the re-skins of the three demihuman races as a mental exercise, but now I'm considering developing this outline for gaming purposes. I'm thinking of a campaign set in this world, which will be somewhat inspired by Journey to the West AKA Monkey (or Monkey Magic, as it was known to almost everyone in my youth). Not in terms of a specifically Asian-themed setting (though I'm sure that's doable... see Flying Swordsmen from 'What a Horrible Night to have a Curse' for instance as an example of how do D&D in a mythologised version medieval China), but in terms of an episodic or picaresque structure (technically a 'picaresque' is the story of a picaro or rogue, and of course, in Journey to the West, Tang Sanzang isn't a rogue, but Sun Wukong (Monkey), Zhu Bajie (Pigsy), Sha Wujing (Sandy) and Yulong (who is the son of the Dragon King and transformed into Master Tripitaka’s horse) would probably count as rogues of one sort or another). The idea, anyway, would be to have an overarching 'quest' (in Journey to the West this is obviously Master Tripitaka's journey to India) but to pattern the game via the incidents on the journey. A series of one-shots strung together with an overarching 'plot', which is the quest that players buy into as the conceit of the game.

I've written a little before about arranging a journey-based game with a changing party here and I think that the structure holds up. But it does mean that the players have to agree that 'the quest is the thing', as I have discussed recently. That, in turn, comes back to why the PCs are adventuring. But this  post is just about different ways of considering 'where' - especially if it doesn't have to be a standard Tolkienesque setting.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Questing in Elfgames VI - PC motivation

"The Sages of the Temple of Unpr'onounc'eable tell us that in the past, McGuffin the Great ruled wisely and well, with the aid of powerful magic, over a mighty Empire.

However, things now aren't as good as they were then. The Empire fell, the Dwarves are angry and the Elves are sad, while evil Lord Doombad raises an army to conquer everything.

You, a group of heroes aspiring or established, must journey to the many parts of McGuffin the Great's empire, collecting the Relics of McGuffin, and bring them together to the Temple of Unpr'onounc'eable, where they can be used to stop Lord Doombad."


... the plot of pretty much everything ever. Honourable mention to Tolkien whose plot was 'get rid of the Relic of Lord Doombad', but that sort of trick can't be repeated too often.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a bad plot. It certainly gives the protagonists the opportunity to travel around, learn a bit about themselves and the world, meet interesting new people, have some adventures... and that I'm fairly certain is pretty much what people are seeking to do with their characters when they play D&D. It should be possible to play D&D in a way that relates in some way to this kind of 'storyline'. Hopefully, without too much of a problem with regards to railroading, which isn't something I'm a fan of.

I think the trick is in getting the players to agree to the overarching conceit but allow them freedom within that. I've talked a bit about this before - particularly in this post about Questing in Elfgames. Basically the players need to agree that the PCs will take the existence of the quest - whatever it is, it doesn't have to be the 'Quest for the Relics of McGuffin' described above. It doesn't matter if they go and do a side-quest I suppose, but they need to keep coming back to the main plot. What they can't really do is ignore the quest. For this sort of idea to work, there needs to be some reason for the PCs - any PCs - to be doing it in the first place.

This is the most difficult part of the whole process and it is the point where character backgrounds, quests, mentors and all these questions about linking the PCs to the world background fit together. In fantasy literature it is often some secret that the protagonist(s) learn that convinces them to embark on some quest - Frodo finds out the nature of Bilbo's Ring, Garion learns of his heritage, Eragon learns something of the world and its mysteries from Brom, and so on. Other times it's more to do with personal relationships, loyalty, or just straight-up cultural conditioning. Pug goes on his adventure mainly because of loyalty to Duke Borric, and in 'portal novels' such as the Fionavar Tapestry or the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the protagonists generally fall in with whoever they meet first - which of course is how Edmund ends up on the 'wrong' side in Narnia. The stories continue because there some drive on the part of the characters that keeps them fixed on the plot.

There's nothing to force PCs to stick to the quest formula, except the players' desire. This kind of game must depend on the players' willingness to engage with the conceit - but then so does hexcrawling or megadungeon-bashing or any other kind of 'formula' for how play is meant to progress. In a dungeon-bash, the PCs pretty much agree that the procedure is "go and bash the dungeon the DM has created"; in a hex-crawl, the PCs agree to wander about sampling the environment that the DM throws at them; likewise in a 'quest' the PCs have to agree to the conceit of the game, that the quest is important. However, it's maybe not so strictly 'procedural' as some other forms of the game, it definitely has an element of 'story' involved and the PCs would need to agree to be guided by the DM to some extent here. That's perhaps where it gets tricky - there's no way in the rules of B/X to generate big plots, quests, mentors or character backgrounds, and it's not easy to see where such things would come from - unless from Jens's Narrative Generator and similar devices. The best that the B/X rules can offer is the notes at the back of Basic for dungeon-creation. On p.B51, in Chapter 8: Dungeon Master Information (the chapter on designing scenarios), Section A is called 'Choose a Scenario', and gives a list of suggestions.
Scenarios:
1. Exploring the Unknown
2. Investigating a Chaotic Outpost
3. Recovering Ruins
4. Destroying an Ancient Evil
5. Visiting a Lost Shrine
6. Fulfilling a Quest
7. Escaping from Enemies
8. Rescuing Prisoners
9. Using a Magic Portal
10. Finding a Lost Race
This is something like a quest-generator... sort of. It at least provides the plot background, but goes no way to linking it to any notion of character background. So, while it goes a little way to providing something that I'm after, it certainly doesn't provide any kind of motivation. Some of the descriptions hint at possible motivations (for instance, the PCs might visit a lost shrine to remove a curse) but there's not enough to hang a system on.

It seems to me that computer 'RPGs' (I can't bring myself to really regard most of them as RPGs but I'm prepared to say games like Skyrim seem to be pretty much the real thing) have an edge here. Players buy in to the plot in order to play the game, whether that's Assassin's Creed, Zelda or whatever. There is an expectation that there will be a lot of player freedom but also some more directed elements to move the story along. That's pretty much a given of the format. Maybe that's a useful line of enquiry for how to make this more 'procedural'.

There is more to come on this, I'm sure...

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Rift City session 15 - pardon me Vicar!

I've left this too long to do really coherent account I'm afraid... but I shall press on regardless.

Several of the frequent players were unable to make this session but undismayed, the five who were there were determined to go adventuring. The party was made up of:

Cnut the 1st Level Fighter
Gene the 1st Level Fighter
Gibbet the 2nd Level Thief
Gwynthor the 1st Level Cleric
Shazam the 1st Level Elf

The party started by examining the rumours they'd been hearing round town. These are, more or less, that a priest is assembling a party of adventurers to take down Ulfang the Black, a Kobold lord; that the Merchants Guild is seeking information about a missing caravan; that a Halfling is seeking money to fund a dragon-hunting expedition, but his last backers lost their money; that many strange beasts and also undead can be found in the caves (which, of course, the party knows anyway), and that the Goblins have been driven out of the caves by Orcs. They're the ones that most relate to the caves, a couple of others are about events in and around town.

My plan was that the priest would serve as the leader of a rival party and if the PCs didn't go and take down Ulfang themselves the priest and his 'alternative party' would do so; but instead the PCs decided to send Gwynthor, their own Cleric, to check out this priest and see about joining forces. Fine by me, either way, the PCs go to the caves.

So Gwynthor wandered from the party's inn to the square where the priest could be found. Behind my screen I hurriedly generated a priest. I have a method for randomly determining where on the PCs' continent someone comes from. I rolled the north-east, a sort of viking-y area. Co-incidentally that's where Gwynthor is from. I rolled for a god from that area and came up with a Lawful god of fighting and honour called Yrt. Co-incidentally that is who Gwynthor worships.

So, it turns out that the would-be rival party leader is a co-religionist of Gwynthor... so Gwynthor talked to him, persuaded him that the PCs had a map to the location of some Kobolds (the 'Kobs' marked in the top right) and that might be where Ulfang was, and they all set off together. Now there's an NPC who talks like Sean Bean (because Gwynthor talks a bit like Sean Bean and I wanted to do a voice that 1-stressed the point that Gwynthor and Ademus are from a similar cultural background and 2-I can do and 3-I'd remember next session... I'm always annoyed at myself when one of the PCs points out that the NPC who has a Hungarian accent this session was South African last time. So, Ningal is Penelope Keith, Seggulf the Dwarf is Rainer Wolfcastle and Ademus the wary priest is Sean Bean. I'm now running out of voices. I'm also wondering when Ademus will die - surely, before the end... he's Sean Bean after all).

Ningal's map
Making their way to Ningal's cave, they bore round to the left rather than to the right (Ningal is in the top left of the map just below and to the left of the 'spyders').

Heading in that direction, the PCs both heard a noise behind them and encountered some Gnolls in front of them. Dispatching the Gnolls relatively rapidly, they searched the bodies and found some gems, which they were obviously fairly pleased about. The noise from behind was continuing however, and the PCs decided to leave the bodies and make a hasty exit rather than seeing what was advancing from behind them.

In the next largish cave-area, they found some Kobolds, which was pretty much what Ademus was here for (though Ulfang the Black wasn't here). There were quite a few of them (13, from memory), which maybe made them over-bold. Obviously, even 13 Kobolds are going to find a fight a bit tricky when the PCs have mostly plate mail and all have missile weapons (Cnut lent Ademus a sling, with which the latter was highly ineffectual). The majority of the Kobolds were killed pretty quickly but a few (two or three) managed to flee. And thanks to his Charm spell, Shazam manged to get himself a Kobold helper, yet again...

Searching the area, the most prominent and important thing was a large stone sarcophagus with geometric patterns carved on the sides and lid. The PCs were somewhat nervous about this, fearing that some undead might be a resident, or it might be trapped in some way. However, neither of these things proved to be true, the sarcophagus was merely old large and heavy. Eventually they did get the lid off, and, all preparing to die, they discovered that it contained only an ornate iron key. What it might unlock they don't know yet.

Moving on, the PCs came to the area of the 'vile crawlers' in the approximate centre of the map. These were Giant Centipedes; the party managed to dispense with them fairly easily from memory, if anyone was bitten they must have made their throw because no-one suffered the results of Giant Centipede poison (lots of vomiting).

Having made it this far the PCs decided that they really ought to be high-tailing it back to town so they made their excuses and left. I wished afterwards that I'd decided Ademus should stay the night and continue the expedition to the Kobold caverns rather than returning back to the city with them, but I didn't, Ademus followed them out and 'tomorrow' will no doubt be keen to continue his crusade.

Making it back to town OK, we commenced loot-division. I had already told my PCs that I am slightly altering the XP awards from now on, partly as a result of discussions that I've been having with JensD, who told me about XP awards in the Rules Cyclopedia, where there is an assumption that 10% of the 'next level' (average party next level?) would be given in XP whatever the state of monsters defeated and treasure found, meaning that in 10 sessions or less you were pretty much guaranteed to go up a level. Progress seems to have been very slow for the majority of PCs thus far. After 14 sessions only one PC was at 2nd Level, and that's too slow in my book. I have always given some XP for exploration and role-playing, good ideas and so on. I had told everyone that I would be increasing the percentage for these actions. As a result, with the XP from monsters, the cash from the gems and the other loot, and the exploration bonus, both Cnut and Gwynthor (two of the longest-serving PCs) also made it to 2nd level at the end of this session! Given the speed of advancement so far, that's pretty major news.

So, onward and downward... will the PCs head back to find Ulfang with Ademus? Will anyone else level up in the next few sessions? We shall have to wait and see...


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".

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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 yahoo.co.uk 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'!

Monday, 16 July 2018

A few more Fortunate Isles...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Rift City Session 12

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

So, Session 12...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shazam: 'I hit her with Charm Person.'

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

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

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

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

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

Silence. Like actual hear-a-pindrop silence.

'What?' says I.

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

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

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

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