Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pitching DCC to 4e Players & Doom of the Savage Kings Play Report

As mentioned back in the first post of this blog, one of the reasons I wanted to start blogging was because of the excitement DCC put in me for the hobby. Since getting back into the swing of things, it has been rare for me to consider hopping onto newer games solely for the fact that I wouldn't know anyone around here that plays it and would have to sell them on it person by person. DCC's charm struck me, however, and I was determined to put forth the effort. I see a lot of horror stories here and there about awful FLGS, so I feel pretty lucky to have a really awesome one in my area. The store doubles as a cafe so it has nice atmosphere, good food and drink and best of all those of us there for RPG's don't have to worry about any kinds of issues such as renting table space.

Since I started going there, up to this point, the store had pretty much exclusively featured 4e events. Encounters and Lair Assault are both sent to us from WOTC to be ran and we have a semi-frequent LFR group on the weekends. When there were just a few weeks left on the pre-order for DCC, I decided to put out some info and see if it caught anyone's interest. Several people were intrigued so I ended up running a Level 0 demo using "Portal Under the Stars" from the original Free RPG Day quick-start.

Surprisingly, it went over very well. Most players had previous experience in other editions so they noticed the similarities. Overall, all the feedback was praise. People enjoyed the lack of battle maps/fooling with minis and fast combat for a change of pace. One player remarked that he enjoyed having the random occupations because it got him to think and roleplay outside his comfort zone of the usual classes/character types he would expect to play. The overall conclusion was that people wanted to see more of DCC and especially what it was like once you had proper character classes and magic; all that other fun stuff.

Two months later or so, DCC has been out for awhile. I had a lot of time to pour and re-pour over the book and was fortunate enough to play in a session of "Doom of the Savage Kings" at Forge-Con ran by Dieter Zimmerman; excellent session and I met some great people. I finally felt like I was ready to dig down and run something beyond a demo. However, quite a bit had changed in that short time. Most of the players from the Level 0 demo had either moved away or were in the process of doing so. In short, I'd have to pitch DCC a second time to our new players; several of which were only experienced with later editions of D&D.

So I put out the word again, I tried to play up the gonzo style and unique elements DCC had. I also wanted to format what I was running to work in such a way that it could work in a store-ran style, meaning players could drop in and out between sessions without seriously hampering the story, to match the appeal of stuff like LFR. I love ongoing games as much as the next person, but there's a commitment involved and then you get people missing who are plot-relevant and have to either trash stuff or just put things on hold. I wanted something that could churn along on its own while also still working as a story.

With LFR on the mind, I decided to construct things similar to its format. Since Goodman-Games is supporting DCC with an ample supply of modules, and so many third party publishers are embracing that as well, I felt I could pretty safely pitch this "store campaign" as one where I'd be running those 99% of the time. I presented the concept as an episodic story, much like how LFR is set up but with a bit more cohesion between adventures, and drew comparisons to the stories of Conan as an example. We would have a cloud of heroes and there would at least be some lead-in between adventures but for each "story" as it were the primary cast might have some people gone and others present each time. After one conquest, the wizard decides to stick around in town and pour over some tome the group recently discovered while the party moves on seeking rumors of lost treasure. That kind of stuff.

My other plan in kicking things off was to start from Level 1 right away. I love the funnel, don't get me wrong. However, of the few remaining players I had there was a sentiment that they'd rather "get to the good stuff" than run another funnel. I also hoped that having the exciting spellcasting system upfront would wow people. Though I have not ruled out doing some original adventures that are more tailored story-wise to the characters, in the hopes of keeping things tied to the modules I decided to take a page from Pathfinder Society and abstract XP. Rather than keeping exact count, I am merely going to declare they gain a level after X number of modules. To keep the scale DCC uses I suppose that X will have to inflate with each level.

I settled on running "Doom of the Savage Kings" and ended up with a nice turn out of six players. We spent the first hour of so creating their characters as I used various instances to go over some of the rules. I wanted everyone to have that old school experience so I required rolling 3d6, but was a little forgiving allowing them to do 3d6 then arrange to your liking. We had one player turn up late so we quickly had him work up a Warrior and I placed him in as a citizen of Hirot. For lack of currently having a means to print a lot of stuff, I went with keeping the spell tables to myself so the magic would be more surprising to the players in the end. Page flipping for the spells, even with my bookmarks, was the only real drag I felt like I had on my end. On that note, I can't wait for Purple Sorcerer's Crawlers Companion app to roll out.

Overall, it was a huge hit. The first question when we wrapped up was when was the next session and could it be ran more often; my initial pitch has the game set once a month. I stumbled over some rules, but I expected that. Even though I have been constantly reading stuff about DCC since back last fall, it is sometimes hard for me to remember that it is a fairly new game actually. There were no major issues. Everyone had a lot of laughs with the spell misfires and corruption. The Zocchi Dice were a point of marvel when things began; with bit of disbelief cast on the existence of a d24. Where possible I tried to share my set to the players so they could experience using them. Both Warriors sat side by side so I let them use my d3 between them for the deed die, for example.

The only real downside is that our Wizard player was rather unhappy with his character. He didn't enjoy having mostly 0's and negative modifiers. His first spell check resulted in a very harsh corruption spiking his Personality stat with a permanent -1 and he spent a lot of the module feeling like there wasn't much he could do. That being said, I don't think it was really a case of just not enjoying DCC; though that is a possibility. This player took part in the Level 0 demo and enjoyed it quite a bit.

I haven't seen a lot of talk about it, but I do think there is something of an acquired taste with spellcasting in DCC. It's a high-risk, high-reward system. If you're not the type of person to potentially have something extremely negative happen to your character, permanently, for doing what your class is designed to do and then be able to laugh it off then I could see where playing a spellcaster might be frustrating. I don't play certain classes in 4e because there are elements to them I do not enjoy; really the same thing.

Me personally, I love it. I love that tension that seems to come in at higher levels where every spell really counts and there's a struggle of "do I cast this now or not? Is it really necessary?" going within. However, not everyone may feel that way. Some time after the fact, I noticed I overlooked the rule about using luck to offset corruption and the player opted for that though he was still not very happy. I am going to get the player to try out a Thief in our next session and I have a feeling it might be more to his taste. The only other real negative thing to report is that everyone felt the name "The King of Elfland" was very cheesy and not that impressive for a Patron. I may just end up referring to him as the Archfey or something.

Regarding the plot, I did shorten the module down some. I mentioned going in that sometimes we may not always finish the module in one session. However, for our first outing I really wanted to finish things up in one shot and give them a complete story. To condense things, I took a page from the game I played in at Forge which also had the module shortened to fit our time slot. After escaping from the tomb, I excised the encounter with Iraco and the ensuing chaos it might cause regarding the Jarl.

The players never discovered the big twist with the lottery box where names were drawn so other than some initial suspicions of Sylle Ru the party just considered the Jarl to be a man stressed beyond his means due to the Hound. The party was eager to take the place of the girl at the Standing Stones and were generally forward and helpful so I decided to roll with that. Instead of the trek into the Fens after the Hound, the party gathered outside Hirot for a final epic showdown. While I was sad to skip that part, I really liked how things played out. On the plus side, I could always recycle that segment into something different.

My only complication, on the Judge's end, is that the party was pretty thorough in exploring the town and being determined with talking to everyone. They accepted the help of the hag, but between some not trusting her item would actually work and some convinced that only the spear would work the party was determined to go to the tomb as well. Between things like that and lots of high checks at the right moment, the party gathered the majority of magic items in the module. I saw there were some concerns on the number voiced over at the Goodman-Games forum. It felt wrong to outright remove some from the module; especially at the cost of punishing good roleplaying and die rolls. So my players might be sitting high in the power category for level 1's. However, I am not too worried about it. DCC is an unpredictable game so I have faith that things will balance out; one way or the other.

What follows is the summary document I have up in our store's facebook group for roleplayers. In the future I may not always update the NPC and location stuff here, but I will continue to post session summaries and likely new hero profiles; who knows. After the darker turn Encounters has been taking this season, I was very surprised that we had a mostly Law aligned party; that also tended towards the good/heroic side of things to boot. Odin also became one of the important deities for our known world as the character Jarppie kept hailing him as he rushed into battle. With all the Norse dressings already in the module that might just become an ongoing thing.

Where are we going from here? I set up Lloré with a bit more importance and made him more of a wanderer despite Hirot's isolation (he's essentially their only source of outside news) so he could be an ally to the party with regards to rumors. We'll be running through "Sailors on the Starless Sea" next.


1) Jace: An Elf who spent much of his younger years studying Alchemy. This eventually led into the study of the arcane arts and ultimately to Jace accepting the King of Elfland himself as a Patron. Now a Wanderer, he travels the world seeking knowledge and to use his sorcerous talents to aid those tormented by foul beasts.

2) Falcor: A Falconer who became a Cleric of Aristemis after hearing the demi-goddess' call. Still accompanied by his trusted falcon, he set out upon a pilgrimage to spread the teachings of Aristemis and also to see to the destruction of the forces of Chaos.

3) Markav: Once a rope maker, Markav eventually stumbled upon an ancient tome filled with the long lost secrets of a powerful Wizard. Studying these, he began following in the ancient sorcerer's footsteps and set out to adventure and discover more arcane secrets. Learning of the Three Fates through the tome, he was able to contact and negotiate a pact with them accepting the trio as his Patron.

4) Jarppie Meatshield: A simple butcher from the lands far to the north who left his home to adventure as a Warrior. One day, when his village was under siege he joined the battle wielding only his meat cleaver and using a rack of ribs as a makeshift shield. From that day forward, Jarppie felt the desire to live an adventurer's life. His shield remains emblazoned with the symbol of a rack of ribs in honor of his first taste of combat and he continues to wield his cleaver into battle.

5) Ozwald: A former court jester turned Thief. Cruel in combat, Ozwald favors skulking around the battlefield waiting for the proper opportunity to strike with his garrote. Skilled at sleight of hand and con games, he also has a penchant for dressing up as a woman.

6) Ulfric: A Blacksmith working in the village of Hirot. Displeased by the Jarl's failure to remove the threat the Hound posed on their village, he masterfully forged his own two-handed sword and began training to become a Warrior. When the party arrived in Hirot seeking to save the town, he joined them in their cause. Unable to return to his mundane life, Ulfric has decided to join these adventurers.

-Hirot: A lonely village set at the foot of the Trolltooth Mountains. The village was once home to some three hundred souls, but since the depredation of the hound the population has shrunk to nearly two hundred. The remaining village folk lived in constant fear, cowering in their homes most nights and emerging at dawn. The majority of buildings in Hirot are timber framed, wattle-and-daub constructions. Many of the smaller homes are mere hovels with families and livestock sharing the hard-packed earthen floor. In contrast, the homes of prominent merchants are two or even three stories in height. Many buildings are abandoned, their former inhabitants slain by the Hound of Hirot. Key to Hirot's character is its isolation. For most of its folk, knowledge of the world ends roughly twenty miles from the village gates. Hirot is ruled by its Jarl, his trusted advisor Sylle Ru and his seven Thegns.

Important Deities:
-The King of Elfland: Master of the verdant realm glimpsed only through sun-dappled groves, the mist of great waterfalls,and the moments of dusk and dawn, the King of Elfland rules all elf-kin from his throne of mist and ice. Fierce once roused, the white-bearded regent keeps watch over the dreaming land, protecting against incursion. He grants fearsome powers to his champions on the material plane, but can often seem fickle and sanguine; neglecting affairs not immediately pertaining to the Elflands.

-The Three Fates: Beholden to neither god nor man, the Three Fates weave the collective destinies of the universe upon the loom of time. As wardens of order, they strive against the diabolic powers, wicked gods, and forces of the outer dark that seek to undo the work of creation. Their anathemas are fell magics and the chaos-born corruption these magics unleash; supplicants of the Three Fates must exercise great discipline lest they become the monsters they seek to vanquish. Those that align themselves with the Three Fates tend to one of two archetypes: either the wizened arch- paladin, marshaling white magic against the forces of chaos, or the fiercely paranoid witch-hunter, seeking—and often finding— corruption behind the illusive masks of the world.

-Aristemis: The Law-aligned demi-goddess of true seeing and strategy. Also known as the Insightful One.

-Justicia: The Law-aligned goddess of justice and mercy. She seeks to bring aid to those suffering and for her followers to head the charge against the forces of Chaos.

-Odin: A powerful god associated with not only war, battle, victory and death, but also wisdom, magic, poetry, prophecy, and the hunt. His power is considered supreme among even the gods.

Important NPC's:
-Lloré: Hirot's sole bard and storyteller. Fond of entertaining crowds within the Wolf-Spear Inn, he is also the only source of news and information from beyond the walls of Hirot.

Chapter 01: Doom of the Savage Kings

I. The Village of Hirot
-Having crossed paths in the wilderness Jace, Falcor, Markav, Jarppie and Ozwald began travelling together since they shared the same destination: the village of Hirot. The small vale where the village rested seemed ever-filled with thick fog and mist when freed from the forests surrounding the area.

-The party came upon a grim procession marching a young woman bound and gagged. Our heroes met the Jarl of Hirot and first learned of the malicious Hound: a creature of Chaos plaguing the village. For the past few months, the Hound would prey every night on the village killing its citizens. The beast seemed to be immortal as although the Jarl and his seven Thegns had killed the beast, it merely turned into mist only to reform and return the following night. Eventually, the Jarl's advisor Sylle Ru, a elderly sorcerer, had determined that by staging sacrifices at the standing stones beyond the village the Hound would only come every three days.

-Using a lottery to decide who would be the tribute, in this way Hirot has slowly been marching down the path to destruction at the maw of the Hound. Unable to stand by and allow the village to sacrifice one of their own the party requested a chance to stop the Hound. Cynical, the Jarl refused giving them the sole option of standing in the woman's place as a sacrifice.

-The party consented and the young woman, named Morgan, thanked the heroes mentioning that her father ran the Wolf-Spear Inn in town and they would be welcomed there for their kindness. As the procession departed, the party gathered at the standing stones to stage an ambush on the Hound.

-Between a sneak attack by Ozwald and a powerful casting of Magic Missile by Jace, the party managed to get the drop on the Hound and defeat it. However, true to the Jarl's words it turned into mist and vanished. With no means of tracking it, the party marched on to Hirot.

-The party thoroughly explored the village of Hirot making many allies. Though some feared the Hound would come for the village tomorrow due to the party's actions, many felt encouraged by the heroes' attempt to bring an end to the curse plaguing Hirot. Nothan, leader of the night watch informed the party that a local blacksmith had been training in hopes of facing the Hound himself.

-The party met with this blacksmith, named Ulfric, and ended up recruiting him to their cause banding together to seek a means to slay the Hound for good.

-At the Wolf-Spear Inn, the party met Morgan's father, the inn keeper, Broegan and the local bard Lloré. Meanwhile, Ozwald showed interest in the fair Morgan. While the rest of the party questioned Broegan, they learned that some local thugs by the name of Ilham, Kej and Stein had recently tried to seek out and discover the Tomb of Ulfheonar. Many eons ago, Ulfheonar was a savage king who ruled over the very lands where Hirot had been founded. His tomb was rumored to have many riches for anyone brave enough to discovery and explore within. Above the mantle at the Inn rested a replica of a relic known as the Wolf-Spear; a weapon Ulfheonar was claimed to have owned which could slay any creature.

-While in the Inn, they also learned of several other areas of interest within the city that could be useful in their quest including the local Chapel of Justicia and the hovel of an old woman named Ymae; who was known about town as the Mad Widow and rumored to be a witch.

-Seeking more information, the party visited the Mad Widow. Inside her hovel, which was curiously larger on the inside, she confirmed that Ulfheonar's spear could slay the Hound if it were found. She also offered to spin the party enchanted threads that could be used to bind the Hound and defeat it that way. However, such a one of a kind magic artifact could only be parted with in exchange for one of the party members agreeing to marry the hag.

-Aloof of human customs, from living so many years already being an Elf, Jace agreed to the Mad Widow's bargain. Ymae informed the party that once the Hound was defeated they were to return to her at which time Jace would have to make good on his promise.

-Next, the party visited the Chapel of Justicia. There they met Father Beacom, a cruel seeming man who was warry at the party initially until Falcor began conversing with him about the forces of Law and their struggle against Chaos. Noticing a mural within the Chapel that depicted a holy warrior wielding a warhammer against a beast of Chaos, the party inquired about its meaning.

-Father Beacom was reluctant at first, but after some discussion with Falcor he took the Cleric aside to show him the Chapel's secret. They were in possession of a holy relic, the head to the very warhammer depicted in the mural. Though he was wary to give away such a sacred object, Father Beacom wished to see an end brought to the Hound as much as the rest of the village. He informed Falcor that a new shaft would need to be crafted for the warhammer and then, if it were rededicated to the services of Law, its power would return.

-Returning to his smithy, Ulfric helped to reform the warhammer into proper form. Then, praying to Aristemis, Falcor dedicated the weapon to championing the forces of Law and destroying the minions of Chaos. In an instant, the warhammer regained its magical property as a weapon to slay demons and devils.

-Moving on, the party visited the Three Rats; a Inn of ill-repute. There they met the opportunist Master Jenks. He confirmed that some of his men had went to find the tomb of Ulfheonar, but had never returned. However, he knew where they were headed and could easily give the party a map for the low price of one hundred gold.

-Clearly realizing that Master Jenks was trying to extort the party for all they were worth, our heroes began trying to negotiate for the directions. However, they made little progress. Eventually, Ozwald dressed as a woman hoping to win over Master Jenks favor with "her" charm, but even then he offered little discount on his valuable information. The party tried to gamble for the prize, but remained wary that Jenks might cheat.

-Ultimately, Ozwald realized Master Jenks had to be a fellow thief and negotiating in Cant, managed to come to an agreement wherein the party might borrow the information as a favor between two experts of the "trade."

-Armed with the information they needed, but tired from their conflict with the Hound and exploring the village the party rested at the Wolf-Spear Inn planning to set out early in the morning for the Tomb of Ulfheonar. The majority of the party remained convinced that the spear alone would bring victory and were wary of trusting the Mad Widow's aid.

-In the morning, before setting out, the party visited the Jarl's great hall known as Meadhold. There they found little patience from the Jarl who had long been stressed at his inability to find a solution to the curse upon Hirot. The party also met with Sylle Ru under some suspicion that he might be behind the Hound. However, they quickly came to realize that Sylle Ru was quite sincere. A former adventurer himself, he had met great despair when his party bit off a little more than they could handle and he escaped as the sole survivor. Though he desperately wanted to save Hirot, he was taxing himself day and night in research looking for a solution.

II. The Tomb of Ulfheonar
-Heading north, the party traveled until they came to a small pool where several streams met before a large earthen mound. Set in the face of the mound was a large stone door decorated with serpentine spirals. In a feat of great strength, Ulfric managed to open the tomb entrance. However, this awakened a serpent spirit within the pool of water that quickly engulfed the blacksmith.

-The party found themselves in a desperate fight as Ulfric slowly began to drown trapped within the water serpent. Ultimately, Falcor managed to shove their companion free as the party's combined might slayed the beast.

-Exploring Ulfheonar's tomb, the party cleverly bypassed several traps while finding a large cave bear pelt and skull fashioned a a cloak and helmet. Granted to Ulfric, he could feel the power surging through it allowing him to enter a berserk rage upon his choosing.

-The party also faced off against two gruesome ghouls who seemed to have some alien being crawling beneath their very skin. As the first ghoul fell the source of their odd condition became clear, within each body was a smaller serpent-like creature that busted forth at its host death to strike the party.

-After dispatching these creatures, our heroes came to a small chamber that had been caved in. Sifting in the rubble, Ulfric found a magical shield emblazoned with the crest of a lion which he gave to Jarppie. However, it came at great cost as a large stone fell due to Ulfric's sifting of the area striking the blacksmith and injuring him.

-Moving deeper into the tomb, the party discovered a dead end but noticed a small crawlspace leading up. It's small size proved a detriment for the party forcing anyone wanting to enter to have to remove their armor and push or drag it behind them. Initially wanting to send Ozwalrd, fearing for traps, the party became stumped as the thief refused such a dangerous task.

-Jace, followed by Jarppie for protection, eventually took the lead hoping his infravision would help spot any trouble along the way. Crawling through several bends the duo discovered what appeared to be the main chamber of the tomb which also held a large spear and shield. Fearing traps, they called back for Ozwald to advance.

-Crawling through, Ozwald was surprising by another ghoul dropping down from a secret crawlspace leading higher up that no one had noticed. Fearing for his life, Ozwald retreated out allowing Ulfric, Falcor and Markav to deal with the creature before everyone advanced to Jace and Jarppie's location. A lengthy feat regarding time due to the small size of the crawlspace.

-There, the party claimed the spear finding it entirely non-magical as they triggered a magical trap that began collapsing the chamber; making it more than clear that this was a false tomb designed to deter tomb robbers. Markav managed to barely escape at the last minute before being crushed under the entire weight of the mound above the tomb.

-Taking the upper crawlspace that the goul had come from, the party managed to find the true chamber of Ulfheonar; the skeletal remains of the savage king seated upon his throne. In his lap rested the legendary Wolf-Spear. Already posessing the bear hide cloak likely worn by Ulfheonar, the Wolf-Spear was entrusted to Ulfric. Jace also claimed a drinking horn whose mysterious liquid could give resistance to poison and even heal wounds.

-Reaching out to his patron, Jace contacted the King of Elfland questioning the powerful being if the Wolf-Spear would truly be able to slay the Hound. Busied with a lavish party being thrown, the King of Elfland had little time to spend on Jace and merely offered a confirmation that with the spear they could achieve victory granting the spellcaster a small boon of the King's power to use when they faced the beast.

III. The Hound of Hirot
-After exiting the tomb, the sun was already starting to set. Moving quickly, the party reached Hirot just in time as Nothan was beginning to lock down the gates in fear of the Hound. Seeing Ulfric decked out in the gear of Ulfheonar, only spoken of in legend, the villagers rejoiced. As the gates to Hirot closed, the party took a short moment to rest outside the village as they awaited the Hound. Falcor did his best to patch up the party's injuries.

-True to its nature, the Hound emerged from the mists surrounding the village slowly approaching the party as if it sensed that this would be their final showdown. Wielding the Wolf-Spear, Ulfric bravely stared down the Hound ready to put an end to its curse upon Hirot. Rushing forward, Ulfric pierced the Hound with the Wolf-Spear pinning it helplessly to the ground.

-Taking advantage of this, the party proceeded to lay into the Chaos beast with blow after blow. Ultimately, Markav sacrificed some of his very essence in spellburn to the Three Fates allowing him to summon a powerful sphere of force energy blasting the Hound and destroying the creature. Rather than shrinking back into mist, this time the beast merely burned into ash leaving only the Wolf-Spear in its wake.

-Having defeated the Hound, the party was given a heroes welcome in Hirot. Even the reluctant Jarl offered thanks while Broegan informed the party they would have free room and board at his Inn for as long as they needed. Making good on his promise, Jace went off to visit the Mad Widow Ymae. To his surprise, she was no longer an old hag but young and beautiful with flowers in her hair.

-However, beside her stood a creature of pure flames; both a demon and her true husband. Angered at her antics, the demon swore no creature of the material plane would ever have her and bid the Elf to depart. Running forward, Ymae kissed Jace farewell and gave him a parting gift: an enchanted shirt of golden mail.

-Returning to the Wolf-Spear Inn, Broegan gave drinks all around as Ozwald began cozying up to Morgan. Meanwhile, Lloré started a new song, of his own design, hailing their new local hero Ulfric joined by his companions that had traveled to Hirot from far away banding together to slay the Hound of Hirot.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Just Ten?

I came across an interesting blog post via DungeonsMaster that was posted from Untimately. A rather simple question is posed that took a lot more thought to answer than I expected. That question was simply this: if you could only keep ten of your printed RPG books, which would you pick? I don't think I have the viewership to pose that question myself, but I can certainly offer an answer.

Initially, I spent a good deal of time reading other people's responses. It might just be based on my own perception (check), but it seemed like a lot of people clung mostly to one game line (D&D for example) or one sort of broader linked area (OSR games) barring an exception here or there. I suppose I don't fall into any sort of norm with that. After a lot of deliberation my own list is all over the place. Some old, some new, OSR, fantasy, horror, anime inspired and beyond. In the end, my list also ended up skewing solely towards core rule books. I noticed in a lot of the lists, people had selected modules or source books. There's certainly nothing wrong with that approach and when weighing the actual physical RPG books I own there were some tough calls.

I guess when it came down to the bottom line, when I began to consider the idea of only having ten printed RPG books my train of thought led me to the idea that I should just be selecting core rule books. At the end of the day, I can make up additional content (whether it is as good as printed content is a different story) and I can design my own plots and adventures. The core rules for a certain genre or style could go a lot further, in my eyes. I also tried to avoid grouping multiple books together. I saw a lot of that and while I get the logic, I wanted to adhere to the base question as much as possible (though in one instance I had to break my own rule). Again, neither approach is wrong. This is just the mindset I went into while parsing down my collection into ten books. And to be honest, it was pretty tough. I think every official DCC module I have picked up since the new RPG launched are all top notch five star material. It would be rough to let them go.

Likewise, I feel a little bad that as important as 4e is to me (got me back into the hobby, I have played or ran it almost weekly since then and it takes up a majority focus with this blog) it didn't manage to get a book into this list. I think that is in part due to how much content for the game is available in digital format. When you never consult the books 95% of the time, they tend to not keep much of a hold on you. However, the fact does remain that in this scenario losing the 4e books I own would not really impede my playing of running of it due to the digital tools available. I suppose then that if I could give an honorable mention it would go to the Rules Compendium which is excellently put together and probably my, and many 4e players', most used resource at the table.

So if I could only keep ten of my printed RPG books here are my picks, in no certain order:

1) Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG: Easily the game I am most excited about right now. DCC won me over with its Free RPG Day preview. If I could only keep playing one game this might be very strong in the running. I like the feel the game tries to present and the gritty sword & sorcery tone it has. To me, this is my D&D NEXT. I haven't posted anything on this blog about my feelings on 5th but they are not positive. Rather than being a proper evolution (which is what a name like NEXT suggests to me) it feels like WOTC is backpedaling to try and win back old fans. DCC on the other hand is a step into new territory while also holding to a lot of old school (and OSR) conventions while still being new and fresh. The artwork is also gorgeous and the best I have seen in an RPG product for quite some time.

2) World of Darkness Core Rules: For a long time, White Wolf's World of Darkness was the only tabletop RPG I would play. After moving away from D&D I bounced around trying a lot of games and finally settled on WoD. I have always been a fan of horror stories/films and I liked how simple the game was to run and deal with. At the time, it really felt like it was the first thing I played that was outright designed to put the story first. Ultimately, I ended up riding out the "Time of Judgement" that heralded the current (new) World of Darkness and though there are differing opinions, I prefer it over the old (though I enjoy both still to this day). The rules were super streamlined and fixed a lot of the quirks in the old system. It also helped that, this time, the game was designed from the ground up to better handle crossovers between the various supernatural splats. The core rules (blue book) alone is extremely useful in my opinion. With it alone you could easily run a lot of different styles of horror games or even other genres like a cop drama or some high action mob film style affair.

3) Big Eyes, Small Mouth Revised 2nd Edition: Being such a big fan of anime, it is only natural that some of the picks in my ten would be anime-themed RPG's. I initially discovered Guardians of Order, believe it or not, through their Sailor Moon Roleplaying Game & Resource Book which used a modified version of the BESM system. Sailor Moon happened to be one of the earliest anime that I had a chance to see. Call it mass appeal or my friends and I were just weird, but we all enjoyed and once we stumbled across a tabletop RPG for it several of us picked it up. We played a surprisingly lengthy, given the source material, game with the PC's cast as members in the Negaverse and though it played out much more light-hearted and comical it was probably my first taste of a villain/chaotic campaign. I enjoyed the system and how well it hit the feel of Sailor Moon that I always kept a look out for the GOO logo.

That led to stumbling across BESM2R which was basically more of the same, but with even more content and broad enough to cover any type of anime. It is my go to game for running anything anime-related barring the Mecha genre. While the rules aren't that bad (and much less of a nuisance than the overbearing rules-heavy approach of stuff like Mechwarrior or Mekton; just not my style), they also don't feel to me like they are (or act out in play as) very evocative of the Mecha genre in anime.

4) Chris Perrin's Mecha: So if I don't use BESM to cover Mecha anime (perhaps my favorite genre) then what? I have spent a very long time looking over systems and trying them out to find that one game that really struck me for running an anime Mecha rpg. I first stumbled across mentions of Chris Perrin's Mecha through a thread on about what system to use for a mecha game. It was the only one in the thread that was unknown to me and after stumbling on the actual site and the drivethrurpg page I was intrigued. I ended up downloading the quick start and instantly fell in love. It was rules-light (my favorite), but still captured the feel of the genre.

It even included built in rules to really hammer home the feel of watching a Mecha anime such as having an opening theme to play at each session's start, using background music for combat and constructing the story into Episodes that follow a similar flow in construction. I ran a short-lived play-by-post game and it was a lot of fun, but I'd really like to try a game at the actual table with the music and everything. It's just a matter of finding the right people I suppose. Chris Perrin is a pretty cool guy, in any case, and there's actually  a sourcebook on the way called Mecha Combiners which caters to the combining giant robot genre for stuff like Voltron.

5) Weird West RPG: One of the main points of discussion here at this blog! I sort of picked up Weird West on a random whim. For a long time I frequently checked drivethrurpg for reviews or info on RPG products, but I just never made that leap to getting digital releases beyond freebie indie stuff that was distributed online by the creator. With the release of DCC I decided to finally bite the bullet and picked up Perils of the Sunken City, the first 3rd-party release for the system by Purple Sorcerer Games. Aside from being an excellent module (it's hard to pick a favorite 3rd party publisher for DCC because all of it is so good, but Purple Sorcerer would be in the running for #1 in my book), it also warmed me up to the idea of owning RPG material just in digital format. So one day, in boredom, I was scrolling through the best seller list for small press publishers and happened upon Weird West. The low page count and dollar price tag made it seem like a joke, but it had several good reviews and also some references to OSR so I decided on a whim to pick it up.

It turned out to be an excellent little game. It's pretty much a stripped down version of the original D&D, in my eyes, flavored for the weird west genre. I love the genre and I love how fast the game plays as well as how easily it lends itself towards making up new rules, content and what not. The PocketMod concept is a great idea too and yes, pictured here is one of my own printed out copies of the PocketMod. They say a dollar doesn't go a long way anymore, but if you use to buy this game I think you can get far more gaming hours back than what you put in.

6) Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition: H.P. Lovecraft is one of my all time favorite authors so Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu being on this list is not a big shocker. I picked up this book, yes it's a hardback copy, years ago and never had a chance to try it out. BRP is a nice straightforward system though it gets a bit wonky in combat to me; I'm looking forward to see how the 7th Edition will change things. While World of Darkness might be my top choice of all time for horror roleplaying, I think it is just easier to turn to CoC for something rooted solely in the Lovecraftian realm of focus. A lot of us buy RPG books and they end up sitting shelves and never being used. Sometimes we wonder about getting rid of them and sometimes we do.

Call of Cthulhu sat on my shelf for probably six years or so without seeing any play. Then, just a few months ago I got invited to play in a game and I was so glad that I always held onto this book. The campaign has been pretty fun. it is set in the Modern Era and the Keeper has basically worked out much of the standard Cthulhu Mythos (wiping them out or having them pretty much put out of focus back in the 1920's) and instead replaced them with a modern sort of Mythos drawing from things like J-Horror, Creepypasta and popular internet media like Slenderman. Like DCC, it's on my list to get around talking about eventually as I have had a lot of fun with the system.

7) Demon: The Fallen: My first dip back into the same game line with this list; though arguably it is for the (old) World of Darkness so to some degree it is different. Demon is hands down my favorite of the supernatural splats for the oWoD. I was a latecomer to WoD so Demon was just hitting the shelves and as I worked on picking up a backlog of core books little did I know that it was almost at its end. It might be seen as a controversial game to some, but I always thought it had a certain charm. It clearly drew a lot off of Milton's Paradise Lost and to some degree was really a modernization of that motif. I really enjoyed the struggle placed on characters between embracing the monsters they had fallen into or trying to walk the hard road in the hopes of redemption. For all the supernatural elements and reliance of Christian imagery, that's really a very personal human tale; in my opinion. It was hard for me to decide between Demon or the Dark Ages stuff they put out which was also excellent.

I settled on Demon for the simple fact that I could not pick just one Dark Ages book and this game will always have a special place for me due to a rather long running campaign I ran during high school. It was my first time really running something long term and serious. The first time where I held a session solely devoted to sitting down and coming up with a background for each player's character and figuring out who these people were within the confines of our story. Time of Judgement was launched amid our campaign so I picked up the book and we had a fitting and highly epic conclusion.

It was a very satisfying experience and I think particularly so because it did end. So often we start a tabletop RPG and things never come to fruition. Like a long running television show, issues arise and eventually things just stop never to continue or be resolved. So while this wasn't some spectacular multi-year game, it was a defined story with a start and a finish; something I will always remember.

8) Labyrinth Lord/Advanced Edition Companion: So this is my one exception to my desire of keeping to a single book per entry. I love Labyrinth Lord. After 4e got me back into the hobby, I stumbled across the OSR and everything that went along with it. AD&D had been my introduction to tabletop roleplaying so there was something of a desire to recapture that feeling. I looked over a lot of the big names LL itself, Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC and so forth. In the end, Labyrinth Lord was my favorite. Mixed with the AEC to run 1st Edition it really felt a lot like how we played the game when I was introduced to things rather than the books as written. Best as I can tell, that was the goal with the AEC so mission accomplished. I also enjoy how compatible it is right out of the gate with classic modules or event content designed for other OSR games. If it is not 4e then this is really what I'd prefer to play in the D&D front.

I was lucky enough to take part in a game at Forge-Con this year and it was excellent; especially hanging out with some other people just as passionate about a game that a lot of people I encounter have never heard of. It tends to be one of my go to suggestions when those interested ask about free games as the offer of no-art pdf copies is an excellent idea. While I enjoy B/X as well and the core LL book is great, AD&D just has that nostalgia pull for me so I have to list the core book and its expansion as a "set" for this entry.

9) Star Wars Roleplaying Game 2nd Edition: This was likely the first non-D&D tabletop I ever had a chance to experience. A copy of the core book just sort of fell into the lap of a friend by chance and we all loved Star Wars so it was an exciting idea. I picked up my copy of the book this year at Forge-Con and I was happy to have it again and in such good shape. This entry might be mostly dominated by nostalgia. My friend that ran us through several games, re-starting multiple times, played things fast and loose making things up as he went. However, we had a blast. I'll never forget how in each game he would allow one of us to stumble across a broken lightsaber and lay down hints that somewhere in the galaxy we might be able to find a wise old Jedi capable of repairing it and teaching someone the ways of the Force. On a more serious note, West End Game's d6 system is excellent and plays really well in my eyes. I was happy to learn, as I got back into the hobby, that it's been experiencing its own old school revolution with releases like Mini-Six (I regret not picking up a copy at Forge) and Azamar.

10) All Flesh Must Be Eaten: And we come to the end on another horror game. I really do love horror stories/movies so that's probably got some influence. Again, a level of nostalgia taints this choice but I still think it is a warranted choice. One of the last games I ran before getting out of the hobby for awhile was a one-shot for some friends I have known since I was in kindergarten. I showed up with the book and a few character sheets telling the players to stat up themselves. Following this we began as I ran them through a typical day in their life, but naturally things ended up falling apart as a zombie outbreak occurred. It was very free form but also very fun. Since we all knew our hometown well it was easy for them to visualize what was going on and decide a course of action and likewise just as easy for me to come up with stuff on the fly based on where they were going. For one night, we had our own very personal zombie flick.

Could I run a zombie apocalypse with WoD? Yes. However, AFMBE just has that perfect feel for the genre built right in with its mechanics and how the book presents things. I guess that seems to be a trend for me. Like Chris Perrin's Mecha or Call of Cthulhu some games just perfectly capture that feeling of the genre they represent within the system itself and I find that really appealing. With the surging popularity of The Walking Dead I'd like to think this book might be seeing some more use in the future.

So that's my list. If I could only keep ten of my printed RPG books, the above would be my choices. I stuck primarily to core rule books because I felt that would get me the most mileage; of course any approach would work so long as you were pleased with what you kept. It's certainly an eclectic mix of games covering a lot of different genre. Again, this goes back to why I decided to name this blog after an old collection of Sword & Sorcery tales that hit in all across the wide range of the genre.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Level 1 Weird West Bestiary & Wilderness Encounter Table

So here is the final bit of content I have made for the Weird West RPG that I thought about sharing. The adventure I am running my play-by-post game through is set around a town named Ridgewood. A significant portion of the module involves tracking a gang through the wilderness surrounding the town so I whipped up a small listing of antagonists for the area along with an accompanying wilderness encounter table to roll off of. I have always been a fan of such tables and I had a lot of fun designing one myself.

I was a bit reluctant to share this here since I know my players are aware of this blog. However, I have always felt that one of the truly lacking areas of Weird West was that there were no pre-made enemies presented for new people that were interested in playing to make use of . Since I imagine only about one or two will actually scope out this post and they tend to be the responsible type of players, I feel like it's more important to put this out there and share than keep it under wraps until the adventure concludes; play-by-post tends to run pretty slow.

So what follows is just a collection of enemy write-ups presented in alphabetical order. They are all pretty much geared around level 1 adventurers; though some are supposed to be considerable threats and are thus higher (one always needs to know when to fight and when to flee). Following that you'll find the wilderness encounter table I drafted up. The listing might be light on the "weird" element, but that is intentional. The adventure I am running is designed to mostly be straight spaghetti western barring the rare roll on the table and one forced encounter around the middle of the module. It is simply meant to slowly ween the party into the weirder elements that can appear in the setting before going full blast down the line. To give a bit more context, the adventure takes place in the Arizona Territory during the time of the civil war.

If you've stumbled across this blog or were referred here by someone and have an interest in running Weird West feel free to make use of these enemy write-ups and the encounter table. They are my own interpretations and I feel like they are pretty solid, but if they don't suit your tastes or needs then go ahead and tweak them to your liking:

Amateur Sharpshooter
Level: 1
Stamina: d8
Fighting: 2
Skill: 1
Magic: 0
Grit: 1
Attack: Rifle (d10) or Knife (d4)

Level: 4
Stamina: d6
Fighting: 4
Skill: 2 (5)
Magic: 1
Grit: 4
Attack: Bite (d8) or Claw (d6)
Special: Quick Critter (Defense is +3)

Level: 1
Stamina: d4
Fighting: 1
Skill: 1
Magic: 1
Grit: 1
Attack: Bite or Claw (d4)
Special: Characters killed by a Ghoul will arise as a Ghoul themselves in 1d4 days.

Level: 1
Stamina: d6
Fighting: 1
Skill: 1
Magic: 0
Grit: 1
Attack: Handgun (d8) or Knife (d4)

Level: 1
Stamina: d8
Fighting: 1
Skill: 1
Magic: 1
Grit: 1
Attack: Katana (d8)
Special: Iaido (Has "Fastest Gun in the West" Ability).

Level: 1
Stamina: d4
Fighting: 1
Skill: 2
Magic: 0
Grit: 1
Attack: Bite (d6) or Claw (d4)

As mentioned, below is my wilderness encounter table designed to work alongside the above list of antagonists. In the adventure I am running, I have abstracted the wilderness movement merely requiring X number of checks on this table as the "distance" between important locations. Originally a 12 resulted in nothing happens, but it seemed to me that in a game like this something wild or interesting should always happen. The dice rolls notated after combat encounters denote what you should roll to determine the size of the enemy party. If you have particular ideas in mind you can always feel free to hand wave and pick an exact number. The Chupacabra, if encountered, is intended to be a pretty frightening experience so I would suggest maxing its Stamina rather than rolling for it.

A number of the results are difficult tasks and most are pretty straightforward from their description; with the required check notated in parenthesis. The only one that might need some context is number 6. I also happen to have a rumor table for the town (might share that down the line, but much of it is module specific and wouldn't be much use on its own) and one rumor talks about a confederate company active in the area that people say forcibly conscript anyone they come across. If used in your own games that could always be flavored as something else or swapped out entirely for a different difficult task:

Ridgewood Area Wilderness Encounters
1) Combat: Wolves (1d6)
2) Difficult Task: Desert Heat & Exposure (Grit 2)
3) Combat: Outlaws (1d6)
4) Difficult Task: One Party Member (chosen at random) is bitten by Rattlesnake (Grit 2)
5) Combat: Ronin (1d4)
6) Difficult Task: Hide from Confederate Company (Skill 1)
7) Combat: Outlaws (1d6) + Amateur Sharpshooter (1)
8) Difficult Task: Track Directions (Skill 2)
9) Combat: Ghoul (1d10)
10) Difficult Task: Clear Debris Blocking the Trail (Fight 1)
11) Combat: Chupacabra (1)
12) Wandering Merchant (Will sell mundane goods/supplies and/or gamble cards at Skill 5)

D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen Session 10

It has been quite some time since my last post although I got back at the start of this week from a vacation to the beach. Sad to say, overall it was not that pleasant. I suppose I am just not the tourist-y sort of person and that was certainly the area of Myrtle Beach, SC we were staying in. Luckily, it wasn't all bad. I had some great experiences going to Murrels Inlet, particularly visiting Brookgreen Gardens and Huntington Beach State Park, as well as a rather amazing arcade at Garden City; where I happened to set the high score for Xevious Arrange. It is beyond the scope of this blog, but I happen to quite enjoy arcade shooters like Xevious and more well known titles such as Galaga. I have to admit, since getting back into tabletop RPG's last year I have played or ran something almost once a week (if not more) so I did feel a bit of withdraw. While down there I managed to finally pick up a DM screen for 4e which is probably long overdue.

I feel like it is one of the more well made DM screens I have come across. I actually own very few preferring not to use them, but of the ones I have used through someone else or own I think it has an excellent layout with a lot of immediately useful tables and information. By comparison, my ST screen for White Wolf's Hunter: The Vigil is awesome looking and I love the quality of the materials used for the screen. However, almost half of one panel is wasted on detailing the Professional Training merit. This, in my opinion, is just terrible because that is really only going to come up during character creation or advancement; both times when books should be on the table and open anyways. 

Another small square on a different panel is devoted to listing the XP and Practical XP that more advanced characters beyond starting ones should begin with. Again, that is not readily useful information and would only come up during character creation. I have to imagine there's still more useful material in the core book not already featured that could have been put in these places. For example, the highly important and Hunter unique mechanic of risking Willpower could have been detailed. Likewise, the extra space could have been used to feature the more expanded and detailed equipment tables that go into more detail and depth beyond what the World of Darkness core book features (and was used in the H:TV screen).

However, perhaps that is rambling off topic. This post is about this week's season of D&D Encounters. I just happen to have WoD on the brain since I recently ran a rather fun demo of the game at my FLGS and it has snowballed out into a proper Hunter: The Vigil campaign which you can likely expect me to discuss here. I also still happen to have some more backlog of materials I've been hoping to post including some more content for Weird West, summaries and info on the LFR modeled "store campaign" I am using to promote DCC, and some player-based summaries of the Call of Cthulhu campaign I am playing in (currently my only time outside the DM seat besides the now and again sessions of LFR the store holds over the weekend).

So this week began the final chapter of Season 9 and I am very excited for it. This has been a very enjoyable season and I've liked both the plot present in the module and how things have evolved among the party members at my table. There a lot of loose ends from chapter 1 and 2 as a result of where the roleplaying took us and I am excited to play it all out. It has worked out such that each session in chapter 3 is also going to have a unique element just for our table due to choices made by the players or their back-stories. This week's dealt with Seleth Jaelre and wrapping up Meecht's sub-plot regarding his status as an escaped slave. I think it was a nice surprise, but I was a bit let down that things didn't play such that the kobold got to make the final blow. So the dice roll, I suppose.

One final bit of rambling before the session write-up, the first bits of info are leaking out about next season of Encounters. It seems the title is Council of Spiders and it appears to be sanctioned to run for a much shorter time than most season have been. There are also rumors that there might be material made available to run the adventure starting at 4th level so players can carry over their characters. I have really enjoyed these characters and with the motif of this being the first part of a trilogy, I can only hope WOTC goes through with such an idea. 

I don't know if every player would carry over their characters and it would be nice for the table to be a bit more balanced/diverse, but even a few of the "original" cast carrying on would be great. Yes, I could work out the stats for everything in the book and just run it at the higher level myself, but as a grad student going into what is likely to be my final semester I really can't afford the time for such an endeavor. I am sure the Encounters program doesn't have much time left; at least with its 4e incarnation. It would be pretty awesome, in my opinion, to go out with an epic series of adventures that have the option to carry the players across the entire Heroic Tier. 

In any case:

Chapter 3
Session 10: Flycatcher Tangle

-As the morning came, the party finished trading with Meecht's companion. Re-supplied and ready to march on in pursuit of Valan Jaelre, the party followed the tunnel leading away from the main gate of Zadzifeirryn. Quickly, the path lead into a snarled mass of crossroads, dead ends and switchbacks.

-To make matters worse, spiders were creeping along the ceilings of these twisted passageways; waiting to drop. As the party searched for a means of the proper way forward they came across a trail made of drops of blood flecked across the ground.

-Investigating the sight, Harbek identified the blood as being of elven origin. Suspecting it might be Khara's guardian, Tharinel, the party followed the path left by the blood. On the way, Halvar and Meecht examined the tracks identifying that a small band of drow had been dragging whoever happened to be bleeding.

-As they followed the twisting paths the party bumped into a squad of guards led by a young cleric that jumped from the shadows. The cleric chanted prayers to Lolth, but her faith proved weak against the party's resolve as they subdued the threat.

-Travelling on, enduring the harsh conditions of these tunnels, the party came across Tharinel badly tortured and bleeding out clung to the wall in webbing. Working together the party released him from his bindings while Drake administered a potion of healing and Harbek worked to treat his more severe injuries. Meecht seemed particularly concerned for the elf's safety. Though once warry that he might have been a drow himself, knowing of no other creatures beyond the Underdark, he easily recognized the familiar signs of torture across Tharinel's weak body.

-The party questioned what had happened and Tharinel explained that after he and Khara were swept away by Eliminster's magic, they were ambushed by Valan's Elite Guard and quickly captured. This prompted Harbek to jokingly question the wisdom and effectiveness of Elminster's teleporation shenanigans.

-Khara had remained resilient to their torture, but her pride took the better of her as she told the Elite Guard that she was the descendant of a lord of Shadowdale. After this, they separated Khara planning to send her either to the torture theater or the slave pits.

-Tharinel knew he would be of little help to the party in his injured state and asked for their help so he might escape and make his return to Shadowdale. Working together, Tharinel laid out a plan. He knew the patrol routes in the area and hiding in wait the party might create a diversion drawing the patrol's attention. This would grant Tharinel a chance to slip away unnoticed and beyond the gates of Zadzifeirryn. Meecht granted Tharinel one of the cloaks the group had pilfered from drow during their descent from Shadowdale so he might use it as a disguise.

-As the group took up hiding places, planning for an ambush, they found their plan blow apart before it ever had a chance to come to fruition. True to his brash nature, at the first sight of the patrol, Drake flew into action charging down the closest drow scout. In one swift thrust, Drake ran his rapier cleanly through his target and fell his foe in a single strike. This threw the patrol into all out chaos as they were stunned with awe and fear of such a powerful opponent.

-With the plan ruined, the party rushed into combat while Harbek direct Tharinel to sneak by around the far edge of the area. Then, as Halvar joined Drake in his frenzy, the rest of the party found themselves ambushed.

-Just as the rest of the party began to round the corner a section of a nearby wall slid back revealing a secret passageway. From within stepped forth Seleth Jaelre, the leader of Valan's Elite Guard and Meecht's former master. Cackling, her eyes fell on the kobold as she remarked that it was time to put her pet down for rest; permanently. Following this, the spellcaster let forth a powerful blast of poisonous mist that engulfed Meecht, Daveak and Harbek hurting them badly.

-Flying into a rage at the sight of his former tormentor, Meecht charged Seleth hoping to finish what began at the party's encounter with the Elite Guard. As the rest of the party joined Halvar in wiping out the patrol, Drake shifted focus to Seleth herself; ever fearing the danger those that wielded arcane power represented.

-Working alongside Meecht, the duo managed to defeat Seleth and with her dying breath the sorceress unleashed a powerful burst of arcane energy as her body quite literally tore apart in a explosion of poisonous mist. The mist gravely injured both Meecht and Drake. However, it was nothing that Harbek could not handle as he called upon the power of Moradin.

-When a single drow remained, the party knocked him unconscious and tied him up hoping to gain clear directions through the Flycatcher Tangle. As they roused their captive, Daveak leveled his crossbow threatening to fire at a moment's notice; like usual. However, it was Halvar who led the interrogation.

-The drow eagerly revealed that, after her boasting, Valan had decided to send Khara to the torture theater for a "bit of fun." However, when Daveak began to demand for directions there lest the drow face death, the tiefling recieved only laughter. Though a low ranking patrolman, even this drow held the honor to his duty in service to Valan. He knew he had failed. He was dead whether the party killed him or he returned to his superiors.

-Frustrated with their usual routine, Halvar tried a different approach intimidating the drow with talks of how he would not just face death but also find his soul tormented across the Nine Hells. Fearing the dwarf's tall tales, the drow gave the group directions that would lead them to the torture theater.

-Pleased with the result brought about by not torturing their captive for a change, Halvar suggested they let the drow go free. Harbek spoke up in agreement and addressed the drow making it clear that his only option at this point, for survival, was to flee far away. Daveak, naturally, was against letting him go but the rest of the party seemed to be in full agreement. Daveak argued that the drow could never be trusted, but Halvar was quick to remind their companion that from their point of view it seemed that he could not be trusted as well. Harbek also pointed out that letting Dorvon go free seemed to work out in their favor; minus one arrow to Harbek's shoulder.

-Accepting his situation, the drow agreed that he would immediately return to Shadowdale and flee the area amid the chaos of battle that was likely still going on there. As Damaia untied the drow and Harbek began to lead him towards the path Tharinel escaped through, Daveak took aim with his crossbow. Halvar, however, swiftly leveled his hand directly before the bolt asking Daveak if he wished to attack a companion a second time. Realizing it would again mean facing down the entire party, Daveak lowered his crossbow while the drow vanished down the path.

-As the party took some time to rest and patch up, the group was stumbled upon by a drow merchant and his bodyguards. The fighting that broke out was short and during the chaos the merchant actually managed to slip away. However, in the end the party succeeded without much trouble. Still, they realized that lingering for too long would be dangerous.

-Following the directions gained from their captive, the party began to navigate the complicated passageways of the Flycatcher Tangle. Eventually, they began to hear the shouts of a raucous crowd growing louder in the distance. The passage then opened into a huge chamber, its lower level a cavernous pit heaped with corpses.

-Sanguine light filled the area, cast from glowing fonts full of blood. The party noticed two torturers standing on a platform above; the walls of the chamber was lined with stone steps filled with excited drow watching on. These spectators cheered in cruel satisfaction as the torturer swung a heavy blade, striking down a human victim whose body tumbled off the ledge and into the pit.

-Beckoning toward a group of chained captives, all humans by their look, the torturer shouted, "Time for a new victim!"

Monday, July 16, 2012

D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen Session 09

This week marks the end of Chapter 2 for Encounters. As discussed before, my group was a week ahead of the proper schedule so we wrapped things up last week. The reason? I'm spending all of this week visiting South Carolina so starting next week we'll be back on schedule. Due to said vacation, posting will be sparse until I get back in but I have several things in the pipeline.

I find there's some irony in the fact that Dungeon Crawl Classics inspired me to start this blog, yet I have not yet discussed the game at all. I've started a store-based campaign with the hopes of getting the game out there to more people. When I get back I will try to make some posts about it as at the end of the month we will be holding our second session. I'll also be posting some more content for the Weird West RPG; likely the small collection of monsters/antagonists I have worked up for the adventure my players are going through currently.

The session that capped off Chapter 2 was plenty of fun. The group got quite into roleplaying with the ogres so I had a great time making up their responses and playing up their 4 Intelligence. Everyone was present so things were in full swing. I brought back one of the kobold merchants while mentioning it had been the liberated goblins (from the Demonspur) that informed them the party was marching on to Zadzifeirryn. the group seem to really enjoy little touches like that bringing back up side characters and also showing that their actions have had visible impact. Things went smoothly overall so I don't have much commentary; the session notes speak for themselves. I look forward with a lot of anticipation towards Chapter 3. A lot of the plot threads for our players will be coming up and I have a handful of characters that survived past their intended deaths by the module as written to play around with. On with the notes:

Session 09: The Gates of Zadzifeirryn
-Studying the gates before them, the party noticed the path ahead was blocked by two porticullises; each guarded by an ogre slave that controlled the switch to raise them. Dung, the outer gate's guardian, seemed to be throwing rocks in boredom as Worthless, the inner guard, chastized him fearing they might be punished by the drow.

-Formulating a plan to get the porticullises open, the party hid while Harbek and Meecht disguised themselves in robes they had pilfered previously off some of the drow along with the emblem Valan's troops wore. Approaching Dung, they presented themselves as scouts employed by Valan Jaelre with urgent news to bring to their master. Though immediately skeptical, the primitive ogre was easily swayed by Harbek's words.

-At the second porticullis, the duo began to attempt the same ploy upon Worthless. However, they found that this ogre was far more cautious in accepting their story. Meanwhile, fearing they might be left behind Daveak led the rest of the party forth claiming to Dung that he was a powerful Warlock who had dominated these adventurers to be brought in as new slaves. Easily falling for the ploy, Dung ushered the group along to follow along Valan's scouts.

-By this time, Harbek had managed to convince the discerning Worthless and the second porticullis was opened as well. Without raising a sword, the party had infiltrated Zadzifeirryn. However, as they passed through a patrol of drow stumbled upon their infiltration. Calling out, the drow alerted anyone in the area of the intruders and a fight broke out as archers stormed across the wall taking prime position to rain arrows on their foes below.

-With his usual brash nature, Drake led the charge into battle swiftly critically injuring two drow all in one fluid motion. Following suit, the rest of the party engaged in combat as well. Curiously, the two ogres seemed to abstain from combat merely watching on with a mix of excitement and enjoyment.

-As the battle wore on, more reinforcements joined the fight while Halvar, Daveak and Drake climbed the sides of the walls themselves to face the archers directly. In a berserk rage, Halvar deftly chopped down two drow in quick succession. Trying to support Halvar, while fueling his own fued, Daveak tried to bluff one of the archers into believing Drake was their leader and a high ranking member of a resistance against Valan's forces. Below, Damaia faced off one-on-one against one of the drow templars. Meanwhile, Worthless began to take a curious gaze towards Meecht licking his lips with interest. All the while, Harbek continued to beseech the ogres to cast off their bonds of slavery and join their fight so that they might be free of the drow's opression.

-As the tide turned in favor of the party, a final band of reinforcements arrived led by a powerful drow Spellspinner. Noticing her power, Drake flung into action with a swashbuckling feat that more than proved his past as a former sea captain and pirate. Rushing to the edge of the wall, Drake jumped through the air landing upon the back of Worthless and dashing across before diving forward again. Descending down, he used Damaia's shoulders as a final "ledge" catching himself before diving ahead once more a second later as he quite literally charged through the sky towards the Spellspinner. In one swift blow, Drake struck the Spellspinner running her through with his rapier and removing her from the battle before she ever had a chance to cast a single spell.

-Rallied by this show of martial prowess, the party fought on rapidly approaching victory. Harbek managed to sway Worthless to their cause as the ogre promised not to fight them and that if he freed him then he would flee the area; after having a little snack of course. Unable to resist a small tasty kobold, Worthless began to attack Meecht. Unable to dissuade the massive creature, Harbek and Drake began to fight the ogre directly to protect their companion.

-Meanwhile, as Damaia and Halvar mopped up the remaining drow, Daveak attempted to engage Dung and sway him as well. Summoning all his rage, Daveak gave an intimidating speech. However, this held little impact on the ogre and as one of the drow archers barked a command at the dim-witted creature he complied slamming the Tiefling with a powerful blow. The strike sent Daveak flying through the air landing several feet away unconscious as he began to bleed out.

-Harbek scrambled to get Daveak back on his feet calling upon the power of Moradin as Drake and Meecht managed to defeat Worthless. Worried for his brother, Dung called out inquiring if Worthless was safe. Knowing that the death of what appeared to be his brother might send the ogre into a frezny, Halvar did his best impersonation of a ogre as he replied, "I'm fine," tricking Dung.

-Realizing he could not be so direct with the ogres, Daveak tried speaking with Dung one last time. This time he approached the ogre as he spoke of the grandure of Bael Turath and how the drow were his enemies as well; adding that he would free the ogre from their tyrrany. Dung agreed to this and the Tiefling promptly freed him from the chains binding him to stay close to the outer porticullis gate.

-Having been freed, Dung began to make his way towards one of the many exits leading back into the Underdark. Daveak called after Dung charging him as his servant and entrusting him with the task that he might destroy any and all Dragonborn settlements he come into contact with. However, concerned only for his freedom and ignoring the idea of serving anyone else at this point, Dung promptly praised being free and requested the party release his brother and send him along as well when they got a chance. Unfortunately, Dung would only later learn the truth of what happened. More importantly, Daveak's words gave the party quite a large amount of concern.

-In the aftermath of the battle, Halvar took one of the archers captive as he looted a nice suit of Ebon Platemail off one of the templars. Rousing their captive, Daveak took charge with his usual tactic of leveling a knife to his victim's throat demanding that he tell them everything if he valued his life. The drow, a proud warrior of Zadzifeirryn, refused to speak noting only that the party would become lost and die within the Flycatcher Tangle.

-Trying to support his efforts, Meecht joined in the intimidation prompting a quip from the drow that he could never be afraid of a petty slave. Flying into a rage, Meecht ended the drow's life before the party had a chance to try and gain any further information. Nearby, the party discovered a small building that seemed mostly unused by the drow since Valan's claiming of Zadzifeirryn. It seemed as good a place as any to take a rest and plot their next course before infiltrating Valan's fortress directly.

-As the party began to sleep for the night a shifty kobold approached and was permitted in by Meecht recognizing him as one of those they met among the merchant caravan when they first entered the underdark. The kobold mentioned that their tribe had met with the goblins who the party liberated from the Demonspur and hearing that the group was pressing on to infiltrate Zadzifeirryn, they knew the heroes could use some support. Having gathered what supplies they could, they sent the lone kobold in hopes he might catch up with the group and once again do some trading allowing the party to resupply before their final push to retrieve the Pendant of Ashaba.

-As they began to sleep, the party could not help but feel anxious about the coming day. They were now very close to both Valan Jaelre and the Pendant; presumably as well their allies Khara and Tharinel. In the morning, they would apparently face the Flycatcher Tangle; whatever that happened to be...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

House Rules for Weird West

As mentioned, I am now going to post some more original content for the Weird West RPG. I really love this game and after some pretty heavy searching on the web, I feel like it's pretty sad that there's not a lot of fan content out there for it; so let's change that. The first one is pretty simple. We all wanted there to be a random element with regards to initiative so it was just a matter of adding back in a rolling mechanic to things and using level as a means to scale it. The second house rule we are using is the far more interesting one of the two, in my opinion.

When everyone happened to still be creating characters, the question came up about having a duel with someone. I spent some time mulling over it and came up with a house rule to cover it. It mostly plays out like standard combat, which I think fits the motif of trying to stay simple, but makes things much more fast and deadly. In my mind, that is how a duel between two gunslingers should feel. The dueling mechanic was pretty well received by my players. I might post a more detailed play report down the line, but the house rule saw use right out of the gate.

The party turned up in a small town all gathering there to seek out a man that had a bounty placed on his head. His gang had been terrorizing said town and demanding a cut of all the profits from every store in town as well as the nearby mines. The party happened to arrive on a day the gang and their leader came to collect and one of the players rather boldly challenged their current "Big Bad" to a duel. It was an interesting turn of events and the kind of thing that excites me; having the players throw you a curve ball. Unfortunately, some of the other players interrupted and forced things into a shoot out instead. 

It was likely for the best, the antagonist happened to have the "Fastest Gun in the West" ability. Though it would have been interesting to consider what would happen if he had missed and the player struck the killing blow forcing me to drastically change how the story progressed. So here are the two house rules we are currently running in our game. Feel free to use them or even take them and change/expand upon them. If we happen to add more as our game continues, I will be sure to share them:

House Rule #1: Initiative
This is what the book says on Initiative: "Higher-level characters act first, and players go first in case of a tie." I suppose I am just a fan of having an element of random luck so here is what we will be doing:

1) At the start of combat everyone rolls a d20+their level to determine initiative. You can feel free to delay your turn and act at a lower spot in the order (much like D&D). I'll treat enemies like D&D: generics of the same type will key off together.

2) "Fastest Gun in the West" works as written. If you have this Weird Ability you go first. If other combatants in the fight have it then you all are at the top of the order ranked by Fighting stat. If there is a tie with the fighting stat then a d20 will be rolled on both sides to see who goes first.

House Rule #2: Duel
A staple of the Western genre. A duel is a noble showdown between two people. A stand-off where only one walks away the victor. To initiate a Duel both characters involved (be they two PC's or a PC and an Antagonist/NPC) must agree to having a Duel and the terms involved. If this condition is not cleared then no Duel will occur. Once a Duel has been set, carry it out with the following steps:

1) The two characters taking part in the Duel roll for initiative as per House Rule #1. "Fastest Gun in the West" functions as normal and ties are resolved as listed in House Rule #1.

2) The first to go calls where they are shooting and makes an attack roll. If they hit the effect of where that shot is placed will occurs. If the shot was intended to be non-fatal aiming for an area such as the hand or leg then the natural effect of being shot there would take place and the target is dealt regular damage. If the shot was at the other person's gun, for example, they would be disarmed. If the shot was intended to be fatal then the other character is dead. In either case, a successful hit ends the Duel.

3) If the first character misses, then the second gets to make a shot. This resolves as per the previous step. If the second character misses as well, then play rotates back and forth until someone has scored a hit.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen Session 08

We had to run this session a day late due to 4th of July festivities. My table is still one session ahead due to my planning to account for the week we will miss due to me being out of the state at the time. Next week we'll wrap up Chapter 2 and then properly rejoin every other Encounters table for the start of Chapter 3. I'm particularly excited for Chapter 3 because for my table it's definitely going to be the big pay-off for all the changes that have been made. I suppose at that point I will see just how well everything pans out.

I made a major goof with the combat encounter for this week. Drake's player was back having missed the week before due to a cold. Trying to incorporate his character's return in an interesting way I had him begin the battle at the very lowest level of the Demonspur as if he had entered the chamber from another path and was infiltrating it from below. The key problem became that Drake charged right into battle and found himself having to fight five or so enemies at once; a problem for a squishy Thief. Sure, with tactics it could have been managed like forcing them into a choke point at the room entrance but it was still a poor thought on my part.

Thus, it was no surprise that Drake got overwhelmed and went down. Luckily, it did make things a lot more dramatic and the party managed to get their Cleric down to him asap and get him back in the fight. I am consistently impressed each session at just as good the guy running their Cleric is at the leader role. He ends every fight with virtually every healing power expended, but has always made the most out of every use. Halvar's player missed this week, likely due to the scheduling shenanigans, so his character was left to the background for lack of any obviously creative way to write him out for a session. I didn't expect them to have to fight the cave spider, but things just sort of went that way. Luckily, true to the nature of elite solos without some sort of auto or extra actions, it was easily overwhelmed and defeated without wearing the party thin or depleting too many resources.

The feuding between Drake and Daveak is always enjoyable and it was nice to have that aspect back again. Damaia's player is usually pretty passive so it was also entertaining to have her take center stage for a change and ignite a goblin revolution. It was a rare moment where the party came out as true heroes and surprisingly there was no torture session post-battle this week. However, there was interest in capturing the Bugbear once the party realized no more drow were joining the fight. The usual routine was likely spared by Drake's player being so determined to bull rush the Bugbear and toss him into the web beneath the Demonspur. In any case, without further ado:

Session 08: Liberation at Demonspur
-As the party advanced stealthily towards the stalactite they noticed that from some of the various other bridges in the chamber there appeared to be small squads of drow guiding goblin slaves bound by chains into the structure.

-Sneaking ahead, Meecht managed to better inspect the stalactite noting it seemed to primarily have four levels. He also managed to overhear a drow taunting some of the goblins referring to the location as being called the Demonspur. His words seemed to suggest the Demonspur was a sort of outpost for Zadzifeirryn where slaves were processed before being moved elsewhere.

-Elsewhere, at the lowest level of the Demonspur, Drake had emerged from the tunnel he had been following. After losing track of the group and becoming lost in the maze-like cave passages of the Underdark, Drake's exploration had guided him here. Intent of searching for signs of his companions, Drake planned to infiltrate the large drow-infested structure from the lowest level.

-Being led by Meecht and Daveak, the party launched a surprise attack on the Demonspur. The drow seemed to be in the process of arming the goblins. Taking advantage of this situation, the party was able to get some quick strikes in sending the goblins into confusion.

-Meanwhile, Drake snuck in from the lowest level of the Demonspur encountering a lone drow instructing a Bugbear and several goblins. Hoping to drop the largest threat first, Drake wrecklessly charged the Bugbear critically wounding the hulking thug and sending it into a battle frenzy.

-Hearing the battle cries of the pirate from below, the party realized that amid the chaos of battle they had been reunited with Drake. As the goblins joined the fight half-heartedly, Harbek began trying to talk down the band reasoning that if they supported them in the fight then they could become free from slavery to the drow. However, the goblins seemed to take little stock into the Cleric's words reasoning that the drow would win the battle and then they would be killed for turning against them.

-While Halvar, Meecht and Daveak made short work of the drow on the main level alongside Harbek and Damaia, Drake found the tide of battle quickly turning against him as a lone drow and the Bugbear began to overwhelm him. Hearing his cries for help, Harbek knew they had to advance below somehow and rescue their ally.

-In another rare moment of concern for the party as a whole, Damaia took center stage summoning a show of arcane power as she began a grandoise speech bluffing up the party's true ability as near legendary. She described their group as saviors sweeping through the Underdark to free all the races of the Underdark being enslaved by House Jaelre and that now was the time to fight. Inspired by her words, the majority of goblins turned on their masters and joined the party's side. As the final drow fell on their floor, the party began to rush below to assist Drake.

-However, the goblins on the floor below were not yet convinced despite seeing their bretheren; reasoning that they must be foolish. As the Bugbear joined the drow in ganging up on Drake, the drow ordered the goblins to gather at the floor's entrance creating a choke point at the stairs which circled around the outside of the Demonspur forcing the party to fight one by one to try and get access.

-Just as Drake fell unconscious and began bleeding out, the party managed to orient themselves just right so Harbek could call upon Moradin and get the pirate back on his feet and fighting. Using the goblins around her to once again fluff up her words, Damaia again bluffed about the party and their legacy. With her near-perfect acting supported by the heroic fervor many of the goblins held, the rest of the goblins joined their bretheren. Alongside the party, the goblins swarmed the remaining drow while Drake continued to duel one on one with the Bugbear.

-As the final drow fell, one of the goblins stepped forth taking charge of the situation. Rallying the rest in his efforts, he proposed that they use the momentum started by the party and march to the higher levels of the Demonspur and liberate all the slaves held within. As they cheered and shouted, the goblins began marching above.

-Meanwhile, Drake remained frustrated with the Bugbear as they traded blows back and forth. In a desperate attempt to outwit his opponent, the pirate managed to shift around his foe and shove him off one of the rope bridges connected to the Demonspur forcing him to plummet twenty five feet below and into the large spider web that awaited beneath the stalactite.

-The second the Bugbear landed, the vibrations of the web drew forth a giant cave spider. It quickly devoured its prey and then turned its gaze on the party. Harbek led the group in retreating within the Demonspur hoping to draw the spider in and surround it to their advantage. However, in a puzzling moment Daveak used the spidersilk rope stolen from Kietti's body to snag the spider and begin trying to pull it up.

-As the party watched on in horror, they questioned the Tiefling's logic as the cave spider began using the spidersilk rope as a means to climb faster. Daveak merely suggested that they would have to face it anyways, so they might as well get on with it. Paying the price for his decision, the cave spider lashed out quickly biting Daveak twice rendering the Rogue unconscious.

-It was a hard fight, particularly after already exhausting themselves against the drow, but the party persisted. Harbek managed to get Daveak back into the fight and working together our heroes managed to slay the cave spider as well.

-After the battle, the party met up with the goblin who had taken over leading the revolt. Recalling what they had learned from the Jaelre Elite, the party inquired about Khara and Tharinel prompting the goblin to reveal that the duo had, in fact, be within the Demonspur for a short while. However, they were swiftly transported, along with the Pendant of Ashaba, away and on towards Zadzifeirryn itself. The goblin then offered Harbek the enchanted shield that Khara had been using which was kept behind as loot for the forces at the Demonspur.

-As they chatted with the goblins, the party gathered some lore about the Demonspur itself. Ages ago, the Demonspur was rumored to be a site that was used to summon demons; though there were no signs of such activity in recent years. When the drow ruled Shadowdale, the Demonspur was a bustling trading post for goods from the surface and gems mined from the Underdark with a special rope bridge leading to a short path directly to Shadowdale. When Shadowdale fell from drow control, this path was sealed and the rope bridge destroyed.

-In recent time, the Demonspur was mostly abandoned or made home to just a small band of renegade drow. When Valan moved through to seize Zadzifeirryn, he put the Demonspur back to proper use intending to utilize the location as an advanced outpost as well as a processing area for slaves.

-The goblins thanked the party for their support and swore never to forget their kindness nor their help in liberating the Demonspur and all the slaves held within. For a rare moment, the party truly felt as if they had accomplished a heroic deed. Harbek inquired about any dangers the goblins might know of that would await them as their quest continued. One managed to inform the group that aside from avoiding any patrols their next major issue would be sneaking past the gates of Zadzifeirryn itself.

-Having established mutual friendship, the party bid the goblins farewell while they continued celebrating their victory. As they exited the chamber housing the Demonspur their adventure continued. However, they did not travel far before Daveak drew his crossbow turning it on Drake. Immediately, he posed a single question to the party: how do we know this man is truly Drake and not a Doppleganger or other trickster working for Valan?

-Instinctively, Drake drew his rapier and flew into a frenzy arguing with Daveak. As the duo let their words fly back and forth, Harbek spoke in assurance that it was Drake. He had used the same reckless fighting style in battle they had come to know the pirate for and only the real Drake could argue so easily with Daveak.

-As the two continued to comically argue, the party marched on. After a few miles of travel, the party came to a larger cavern with a vast wall that stretched from floor to ceiling. Two porticullises blocked a walkway passing between the wall that exposed space fronted by a ledge with arrow slots visible above the ground. They had reached the gates of Zadzifeirryn. However, to their surprise, nearby chained to the wall itself like a gatekeeper of sorts rested an Ogre...