Friday, 23 January 2015

Under Threshold - further adventures of the intrepid and fragile explorers

Well, tonight's game was a treat. Picking up where they left off last time, the two surviving members of the party looted the body of Helia the Fan-Lady and tipped her into the water. Continuing to explore into the next cavern, they found a person in long robes lying on the floor. Being Dwarves they're not too good with humans but they definitely couldn't see a beard. So they don't know whether it's a  man or a girlman. The person in the robes isn't giving much away, as they have amnesia from a bump on the head.

Exploring a little further, they noticed a strange glow... which turned out to be three fire-beetles. A fight ensued - the wizardy-type remembered s/he knew some words for whoosh, and sure enough, there was some whoosh which resulted in the rapid exit of one of the beetles. Heartened by this the Dwarves piled in to attack the other two - one of which seemed very easy to kill and the other very hard. Once more, one of the PCs keeled over down to 0hp. Luckily there was plenty of time to dispatch the remaining beetle and perform first aid, using bandages torn from girlman's robes. Then time to prop him up and leave him to recover... it's totally safe to leave an unconscious party-member in a room of carrion, isn't it?

Bjorn - the surviving Dwarf - did remember that part of the point of what they were doing was harvesting interesting bits for the members of the Sages' Guild back at the North Bridge Tavern. So they collected the glowing sacs or bladders or whatever fire beetles have and off they went, leaving poor Bromeen all alone and unconscious.

It wasn't long before they were back though. Just a little further, and they came to crossroads, where there was a door to they left - this part of the complex looks properly built in contrast to the natural caverns they were exploring before. They opened the door, Bjorn going first, and found a small swarm of Giant Centipedes. They had a certain problem killing these little blighters - in fact, they only got one of them and both Bjorn and Wizard Mac Girlmanperson were bitten. Cue a slow vomitting exit from the room. Luckily, the centipedes didn't follow.

They decided to crawl back to Bromeen. So, one dead, two incapacitated by vomitting.

Luckily, Bromeen managed to pull through, and his condition was upgraded from 'dead' to 'healed'. Basically, this works like this: if first aid is applied rapidly (I give CON x 10 seconds or bleed to death) then make a CON roll: if that's successful, count that as '1hp' by permanently removing a point of CON. Healing can then take place as normal. Bromeen made his roll, and would therefore get the chance to heal overnight.

I did a couple of wandering monster rolls: some geckos wandered by, late at night, but the reaction matrix told me they were not going to attack. Lucky, with all the party members incapacitaed!

In the evening of day 2, Bromeen had sufficiently recovered to watch over and attempt to help his two companions.Good job too - a green slime appeared and slowly menaced them. Bjorn and Wizard crawled away slowly - but still faster than the slime. Bromeen threw a dead rabbit at it, then attacked it with a sword. He'd never seen a green slime before, he wasn't to know. Now he doesn't have a sword.

What happened next was that he decided to go and stand in the water (parts of the caverns are flooded) and lure the slime in. He did, then nipped (ie slowly waded) to the other side of the cavern and out again. Slimes aren't noted for their clever so I figured it just wandered off. Maybe it drowned. I don't know. It's served its purpose. Melting Bromeen's sword means that when the Town Guard want him to hand it back - they have the paperwork for his sword due to the town byelaws - he won't be able to. Oh dear oh dear, he hasn't sold it illegally has he? That would be very unfortunate... perhaps the gentleman would accompany these nice Watchmen to the Keep...

So, still vomitting and staggering, the remaining party members made their way back out. They emerged, about 36 hours after first venturing down there, having lost a party member, gained another, nearly lost another, killed three robber flies and three fire beetles and one giant centipede.

Bromeen, with his CHA of 7, went off to find 'an apoctherie'. Is there one in town? Of course. Town Hall Square. But as it was dawn the place was shut. Luckily Master Masym Hewe (that list of names I printed out is coming in handy, so far it's named about 10 townsfolk in 2 seconds) was prepared to come and experiment on the two sick PCs ... in exchange for 40GP, which is most of what they have. So after some bluffness, some messing about and some harrumphing, Masym Hewe, Apothecary-about-town gathered his potions and powders and followed Bromeen across the North Bridge to where Bjorn and Wizard were sitting by the warehouse throwing up. After a few minutes experimenting he hit on the right dosage and lo and behold, they stopped the explosive vomit. I did think of rolling for side effects, but that would probably have been a bit mean. After all, one doesn't really start playing an RPG with the expectation that they have to role-play being incapacitated for days...

So there they are - out of the dungeon, maybe 1/3 explored; no-one permanently died today, though it was close; and they've got some stuff that the Sages might be interested in after all...

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The College of Speculative Antiquarians: The Story of Otto Kleinhund, Part the Second

Re-blogging this from one of my other blogs; not really sure how re-blogging works to be honest but it may be interesting to Oldhammer types...

The College of Speculative Antiquarians: The Story of Otto Kleinhund, Part the Second: The cellar was dark, the air cold and stale. Yet Otto began to sweat. Why had Master Wilhelm mentioned trolls? Was there something that Otto...

Monday, 19 January 2015

New start for the intrepid explorers... Tower of Zelligar nowhere in sight

The boys have attempted another evening of D&Ding after the catastrophes of the previous sessions. This time around, instead of rampaging off into the wilderness they decided to try to get some jobs round town. And what could be better than the suggestions for 'Things to Do in Threshold when you're Lvl 1', found in the Mentzer Expert Set? I should point out here that I'm in the perhaps unusual position of discovering D&D in the period 1981-3, so though I have Moldvay Basic, I have Mentzer Expert. And B1, which is pre-Moldvay. And some AD&D stuff. Yeah, right, nothing quite fits together. Doesn't matter, half of what I used to run was Runequest anyway.

The first thing my eye lighted on at the end of the previous session had been a (literal) bug-hunt scenario where one of the warehouse owners in the northern part of the island near the Old Mill was on the lookout for hardy souls to clear out the cellars of his property. The PCs - two Dwarves and a Fighter - decided that might reasonable enough work and would set about trying to get the contract.

Threshold, from Expert Rulebook (c) TSR /WotC 1984

The evening we decided to play, however, I hadn't been told that the guys were going to turn up. Half an hour before their arrival, I was hurriedly scanning the D&D site for some maps and downloading random lists of human and Dwarvish names and ale-house descriptions from Donjon.

I dug out the sketch-map I had made of the northern part of the island and the quick notes I had on the bugs I'd planned for (I wasn't completely unprepared, but I'm glad they decided to stick to the plan from the previous session) and we were good to go.

Except of course for the unusual problem of Threshold bye-laws, that is. Weapons not allowed in the town, that's what I told them. They were hanging around by the South Gate, chatting with the guards. Two of them decided that they'd hand over their weapons, the other decided to wait it out. The two who were in town went to see the innkeeper who'd told them about the contract in the first place, and then went off looking for Beren, the old fellow who had a bug-problem (I had generated his name at the previous session rolling on the Periodic Table, and I thought Boron was wrong somehow). Having found him (and met up with a few NPCs in the tavern, including - because they'd been on the random tavern print-out - three members of what was conceivably the Guild of Sages and Alchemists), they went back to their comrade.

In the meantime, knowing about the contract but not that his comrades had met Beren, the PC still at the gate requested entrance. The Captain of the Guard was fetched to decide if this disreputable adventurer-type could be allowed in with weapons. While being questioned by the Captain of the Guard, said adventurer made some sarcastic comment. That didn't go down too well with the Guard Captain - who, up until that point, had been rather inclined to let him in. Words were spoken, tempers flared - and when the PC attacked the Guard Captain, once more one of the PCs ended up rapidly dead (if you're Lvl 1, don't attack 5 Lvl 3 fighters armed with crossbows and/or longswords).. By the time his companion had come back with firm details of the contract, his corpse was already nailed to a plank outside the Town Hall with a sign round his neck reading 'Disturber of the Peace'.

Long story short, the surviving PCs were joined by one of the NPCs from the pub (now firmly located at the west end of North Bridge, a little square building on the Threshold map) - a mysterious lady in a large hat who, it turned out, had Thief skills. They made their way to the warehouse and descended into the cellar. But - somewhat weirdly - they took no torches. OK for the Dwarves but what Mistress Thief thought she was doing I don't know... a bit of blundering later and they were attacked by Robber Flies. In the dark. Though the Dwarves managed well enough, Mistress Thief had her face munched off. Not for the first time, I wondered if the lads had really got to grips with how they should be organising themselves... once we start playing again, they've only got a few minutes to do some first aid or she really will be dead.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Gallery of Statues

Greg at Gorgonmilk, it's all your fault.

This is part of Greg's project to build a shifting Borghesian 'meta-dungeon', possibly the home of Stheno the Gorgon.

Statue of Stheno from - I don't know how to use pinterest but you can find this image there anyway

I really like Greg's idea here: the notion that the geography shifts around the explorers. Even if you manage to find your way back to a room you visited before, there's really no guarantee that the exit(s) from the room - even if it is the same room - will take you back the way you came.

In fact, it's not certain that it's actually the same room, or a different version of the room, or the room at a different time, or an imperfect memory of the room the party left, or what exactly is going on at all. I really like all that uncertainty.

So, I built some rooms - 2 so far - for the dungeon, or villa, or whatever it is. These can be found over at the Gorgonmilk blog.

Both rooms use random elements. The first - the Room of Mirrors - uses some random mutation tables. I'm sure these are readily available - though a quick search has left me unable to find any suitable tables. Maybe I need to do my own, or maybe I need to look harder. Two tables are needed - one for cosmetic mutations such as changed skin colour, and another for more serious mutations such as snakes for arms.

EDIT: I've now made some tables that can be accessed from Seventh Order of the Random Generator, under 'Mutations', the 'Major mutations' and 'Minor mutations' tables, or access them direct from here - Minor Mutations and Major Mutations

The second room has variable and potentially randomised statues. Though my post to Greg's blog is quite short, I did a much longer post with a bunch of random tables for the creation of the statue set. I also ran through an iteration to actually produce a single room. However, for the purposes of posting on Gorgonmilk, I thought the bare-bones version made the most sense.

I will be putting the full thing into a dungeon somewhere. I haven't decided exactly where but by its very nature it will be at some kind of planar junction. Time and space are different here. Anyway - for what it's worth, here's the iterated version, which may be dropped into any dungeon fairly unproblematically.

The Gallery of Statues 

This room is around 40’ (12m) long and 15’ (4.5m) wide. The room is a kind of hall- or church-like structure: it is taller than it is wide, around 20’ (6m) at the walls and taller in the centre. The doors open into a kind of long gallery with raised platforms to either side, lined with tableaux that resemble statues of Greek myths found on the Parthenon friezes. Above the statues is a row of small windows, 6 on each side – no matter whether this room is in an underground complex or wherever else it may be encountered. If the characters can somehow gain access to them, they will see that those on the right of the room look out on a garden at night, while those on the left look out on a beach by day. Both the beach and the garden appear to be dotted with statues, much like the room.

In the room, there are 6 tableaux on each platform, with single, paired or multiple figures in each. The tableaux on the left side of the room appear to be of white marble, and the statues on the right side seem to be made of black marble.

B1 – a male Elf in leather armour, with a sword and shield, is fighting a female water-spirit wearing a ripped tunic and carrying a short-sword 

B2 – a winged female being clad in long and flowing, though revealing, robes and wielding a spear, attacks a naked male Elf, while a naked female Orc tries to protect him 

B3 – two female Elves, wearing only full-face helms and short skirts, and wielding bows with silver arrows, are fighting 5 winged male beings wearing leather armour and equipped with swords and shields

B4 – a Dryad, naked but for a helm, armour on shins and forearms, with a scabbard on a baldric, and carrying a sword and shield, is trying attack a naked female Elf; a Boar is attempting to defend the Elf from the Dryad

B5 – a male Orc in tunic, chain, helm and with a sword and scabbard is attacking a Giant Snake; a female winged divine being, naked but for a full-face helm and short skirt, and armed with a bow and 6 silver arrows, attempts to defend the snake

B6 – a naked male Human is attempting to overpower a semi-naked female Human

W1 – a Naiad, clad in a single piece of flowing silk, carrying a net and with a living snake for a belt, looks on warily

W2 – a semi-naked, winged male divine being and a semi-naked female Elf are trying to seduce each other

W3 – a semi-naked Medusa and a semi-naked Nixie are eating and drinking

W4 – a group of six Harpies attacks a similar number of female Elves wearing ripped tunics and carrying short-swords

W5 – a male Elf, naked but for a living snake around his neck and carrying a two-handed sword, fights a female Elf wearing only a helm, and armour on her shins and forearms, and a scabbard on a baldric. She carries a shield and sword

W6 – a semi-naked female Elf plays a musical instrument

The figures in the tableaux are real, but to the casual observer, will appear stationary. They are engaged in the activities depicted in the tableaux; they will continue to do these activities forever – seeing them move very slowly will require a Detect Secret Doors roll. The tableaux do not interact with each other, or with onlookers, except under very specific circumstances. Characters can interact with tableaux only by climbing onto one of the platforms.

In this case they can join in with whatever activities are happening on that platform. Once up there, characters see everything in natural colours – the marble statues now seem perfectly real, the middle of the room with their friends is indistinct and the opposite side of the room is practically invisible – the ‘white’ side seems flooded with blinding light when seen from the ‘black’ side, and from the ‘white’ side, the ‘black’ side is shrouded in darkness.

If there is a fight, characters can join in, though the statues are very hard to hit – only a natural 20 of any attack will harm a statue (no matter what the skill or level of the character). Magic weapon bonuses (but this is all) can increase the chances to hit as normal. Each statue has d6 damage points; each successful attack will only do 1pt of damage (no bonuses will be applicable). Dead figures will become statues of the dead, to observers. It is up to the DM to decide what effect spells such as 'Stone to Flesh' or 'Petrify' might have, depending on whether the DM sees these as animated statues or petrified humans etc. Likewise, it is up to the DM whether magic weapons specifically designed to smash stone or harm stone constructs may slay these living statues on any successful d20 hit.

However, each side of the room will only ever have as many figures as it started with. For each character that joins a tableaux, roll a d6 every 10 seconds. If the number is equal to or lower than the number of 10-second segments that the character has occupied the tableaux, one random figure from that side of the room will step of its pedestal and attempt to leave the room, taking anything portable that it had as a statue with it. If this is a single figure, another figure from a neighbouring pedestal will then step onto the vacated pedestal. This new arrangement will then be the same on subsequent visits to this room (if that is possible), unless characters further interfere.

White marble figures from the left side of the room will leave from the doors at the far end of the room; black marble figures from the right side of the room will make their way to the doors the characters entered by. The figures seem uninterested in the party and are merely trying to leave. If characters attempt to stop the figure, it will either fight or attempt to seduce them – using natural abilities, 'Charm' spells or any other suitable method – in order to be able to leave. If the PCs fight a figure before it leaves the room, it will have normal characteristics for a figure of its type. It should however not be any kind of pushover and will in general terms be as tough as the toughest character facing it (even if it’s a naked Nixie for example). If it is armed, its weapons will be as effective as well-made magical weapons (though not of Godly quality - say +2, or give each weapon a unique ability). If ‘killed’, the figure will shed any weapons or other portable objects it has while attempting to crawl back to its pedestal. In this case, the original character trapped on the pedestal can, with a successful save against petrifying magic, Wisdom, Will or Luck roll or similar, break free of the enchantment. If they cannot do so, they can keep trying though the GM should roll a d6 as before for each 10-second segment – and another figure could then step down. Any objects that a statue has been forced to drop are magical and have appropriate characteristics – musical instruments give the player (whoever that may be) the ability to cast Charm or Petrify spells, weapons are approximately equivalent to +2 to hit (or have unique abilities), water pitchers will never run dry and can heal wounds once per day, etc.

If the figures leave the room, there is no way that they can be compelled back or even found again, short of divine intervention, and no way that characters can leave their new pedestals, short of someone else joining the tableaux. In this case the character can leave if they make a successful Save as described above. Otherwise, a random roll is made as before and a figure (which may of course include the original character) will step down. It is up to the DM if any other method, such the party pitching a statue they may have found onto a platform and hoping that it animates, will be successful in releasing a character trapped on the platform.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Observers' Book of Monsters

I've been quite excited by the posts on The Disoriented Ranger that Jens has been posting about his new idea, ''The Lost Song of the Niebelungs". It seems to me that what Jens is attempting to do is to tailor D&D for a Volkswandrung/'Dark Age' setting of Seigfried, Beowulf etc.

Because Jens is doing hard stuff like trying to see how character advancement works and trying to find suitable names for attributes, whereas I just do crazy things like tell him heroes need to be adopted by Dwarves, I'm just riffing off the idea of setting a game in Early Medieval Europe. That was one of the settings I tried to make D&D work in, back in the day, as an 'Arthurian' campaign.

So, because I can just make stuff tangentally connected to someone else's project, I thought I'd show some of my latest silliness. I have made some maps for a hypothetical 'Observer's Book of Monstrers'. For those who don't know the Observer's Books, they were a series of field-guides to various subjects (Birds, Aircraft, Football...) published in the UK from the 1930s onwards. And thinking about what monsters might live in different parts of Europe (for Jens' game, of course) got me thinking about how to show the distribution of monsters and thus the 'Observer's Book of Monsters' was born... a new topic which I'm going to be adding to over coming months I suspect.

Maybe not terribly accurate but I had fun making them. I am quite prepared to consider doing this in a more disciplined and organised way, however. If anybody wants to say 'no! What you have failed to take into account is the Spanish Centaur found in depictions from the 3rd Century BC from Guadalquivir...' or whatever, I'm quite prepared to listen.

I'm not looking forward to mapping the distribution of the European (or Common) Goblin however. I suspect that's 'all over the place'.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The College of Speculative Antiquarians: The Story of Otto Kleinhund, Part the First

 I'm re-blogging this from one of my other blogs, with includes more theoretical or speculative stuff than my 'straightforward' gaming activity usually included here.

It's the first part of a short story, set in the Warhammer world, dealing with some speculations about the relationship between official and more underground history, and may be of some interest to the Oldhammer crowd.

The College of Speculative Antiquarians: The Story of Otto Kleinhund, Part the First:

Otto Kleinhund sniffed the air issuing from the trapdoor.

"You say no-one has been down here for more than 20 years? I would believe it, Master Wilhelm." He took a torch from the massive slab of a man to his right, and began to descend the rickety ladder, nearly setting his straggly beard aflame as he tried to hold the torch, while gathering his ornate robes to avoid tripping on the staircase, whose side-rail he was also attempting to grip.

"Perhaps, Kleinhund, you should drop a torch down first?" suggested the aged Master of the College of Speculative Antiquarians, a lesser-known cousin of the Guild of Historians.

"I would, Master, but the steps are made of wood and there may be parchments in the room," explained Kleinhund, after a moment's thought.

"Ah, I see, might need to fight them off, you mean? Good thinking," replied Master Wilhelm.

Kleinhund stared at him. "Parchments?" he asked.

"What? Parchments? Sorry, I thought you said trolls. Anyway... carry on." Having grown bored, Master Wilhelm wandered away, back towards the better-lit corridors of the ancient and crumbling College. He beckoned the large man who'd provided Kleinhund with his torch. "Come, Dorothy, there's a wardrobe I want you to move. I think it has a witch in it."

Kleinhund stared at the two backs slowly receding down the corridor. "Well, this is it, my old son," he said to himself, "you knew you'd be on your own in the end. When you come out you'll either be a hero to historians everywhere, or a laughing stock to any man who can write his own name." A horrid thought struck him, causing another pause. "Assuming you do come up that is. Here goes..." and he rattled down the rest of the ladder, into the musty dark.