Saturday, December 27, 2014

Frimmsreach Episode #36 and #37


EPISODE #36 and #37

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 12-15-14 and 12-22-14
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth

Inside the sarcophagus chamber our heroes see more lovely paintings on the wall. Monsters, chaos, and death seem to be the theme. This time the images feature a serpentine warrior wading through battles until a fireball from the sky destroys a temple (Shrine of Worms!).

The serpent guards begin speaking through the walls, hissing and laughing.

On behalf of myself and my brothers I thank you for the entertainment. The trick with the magic knife was particularly pleasant. It’s nice to see that tomb raiders these days have not lost their spirit.

And that’s good news for at least one of you because when I awaken my master he will be hungry before reclaiming the Shrine of Worms. And he only feeds on the best of the best. Your defeat of the two decrepit guards in the hall was enough to demonstrate the minimum degree of prowess required. So choose your weapons and steel your nerves. You are about to meet your makers, the impotent fools you call gods.”

And so, trapped, the team starts looking for a way out. Sounds in the walls indicate the guards are doing something, turning a mechanism. One of the diamond eyes on the sarcophagus lid lights up. Then another. This lid is coming open.

Azmooth tries to brace it with a long spear but is shocked painfully.

The lid opens! Up rises a serpent man. As the party begins to assault this threat it speaks, appearing somewhat weakened. "Wait! I am not your enemy!"

Turns out he's not. He replaced the serpent guy who was supposed to be in the coffin. His plan? To kill the head honcho, the high priest of K'lixtra, the last of the serpent brothers...Varlix!

The serpent guards are not happy about this. They rush in and all hell breaks loose. A few moments and many decapitated serpents later the party is panting and asking questions.

The new ally, Alix, says his only goal in being willfully put to sleep for a thousand years was to gain access to Varlix' tomb and kill him before he could awaken.


"For if Varlix returns the Shrine of Worms to its former glory he will summon the Terror Worm, devourer of villages."

This cannot stand. "How do we find him?" Asks our heroes.

Alix reveals a secret stair way down under his sarcophagus. It leads down to a room identical to the one they just left...including another sarcophagus. This one too is beginning to open up. Alix, desperate, says "Do not let it open!"

What to do? The lids are trapped. But Alix remembers a way to reverse the opening process and, by turning a certain gem on the lid, the sarcophagus goes silent again. Phew!

Alix lowers this sarcophagus revealing yet another flight of stairs. Down they go into the darkness to a dead end. But not a dead end...for here is a secret door. Once inside they find a 5' tall column of stone topped with a weird face. The hollow eyes of the face are filled with squishy, wet worms. Behind it is another wall.

Alix takes a worm and bites into it. Gross! Then he spits the chewed worm onto the back wall. Grosser! But the door is revealed and opens easily. Sparruu takes a mental note.

They step into a long room with s small pool or well at the end of it. The left hand wall has collapsed and the smell of nobberlochs is strong. Be careful, guys.

Alix examines the walls. "Here." he says. The back wall. He pulls out another worm. This time Sparruu takes it. "I'll chomp a worm!" exclaims the short priest of Miana Musina. He takes a bite, chews the foul thing up, and spits it on the wall. The door is revealed and opened...

Inside this next room is another sarcophagus. Simpler-looking than the others. Sinister. No treasures lines these walls. No weapons. Only bones.

Alix is ready to plunge in. But Azmooth and Argus are both badly injured from their travails with the trapped coffin lids and the serpent guards. Time to rest.

The party falls back to the worm statue room. It seems the most secure and easily defended. They set up with Alix taking first watch. But no sooner have their weary heads hit the pillows before Alix, noticing something stirring in the statue's eyes, is struck by a snake-like black worm dripping with foul ichor!

No rest yet. Battle time. More worms come. Alix is bitten, Argus is bitten, serpent heads fly. These little savages are slick and hard to get a hold of!

When all the worms lie dead and drooling their black blood the party takes stock of its condition, cleans up the mess, and finally finds a spot to bed down. A good night's sleep will refresh them...then they might take on the challenge of destroying this evil Varlix joker.

End of episodes #36 and #37.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

And One Last Alignment Thing

And more on alignment...

Yet the previous two posts do not consider the other way of looking at alignment, which is to say it is merely an alignment to a faction. Which "side" are you on? The group that is Lawful or the group that is Chaotic? Does this entail good and evil or not? What does the group's stance on law and chaos have to do with their moral character, if anything? This obviously comes down to a matter of your specific campaign setting. If in your world the monsters we can all agree are evil are of the Chaotic alignment and all the creatures we tend to see as good are Lawful then law correlates with good and chaos correlates with evil and we'd be on pretty strong ground to argue that Lawful is good and Chaotic is evil.

But what if your factions are not like that? The recent movie Maleficent (which I thought was just "ok") poses the Kingdom of humans against the un-ruled world of faery kind. Maleficent herself is portrayed as innocent and good in the beginning, then she becomes a bit twisted by thoughts of revenge and could be called evil. But the world of humans is harsh to the faeries and, I think, fits the bill of being quite evil in that sense. Meanwhile the feary realm seems quite good, if chaotic.

These factions do reflect Law and Chaos. But they do not align with good and evil in any clear way, or if they do it seems reversed so that Law is more evil than Chaos.

I don't really like the faction interpretation. It's a little too particular to each setting for me. I prefer something a little more universal.

More on Alignment

Continuing about alignment...

So the 3-point system of Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic covers a lot of motivational territory. In other words it expresses what might drive your PC to behave a certain way. In the previous post I expressed that this seems loose and gives a lot of freedom. But I think it also comes at a price.

If you are playing a Chaotic PC and there is a temple that only "good" creatures may enter. Can you enter? Let's say you do not describe your PC as evil. But what if  your DM perceives your actions as evil? What if you tend to ignore suffering, look out for yourself, and disregard the needs of the group? Is that evil?

If your DM considers those tendencies to be evil then he might say you cannot enter the good temple. And what if this is really important to the game? Does this shut your PC out of some important part of the story?

It seems to me that as a game function the labels matter. A spell that targets evil should target any creature with an evil alignment. If Chaotic is not inherently evil how do you determine if the spell will target the creature in question? DM fiat? Perhaps. But, considering this is a game and not just improv theater and storytelling, doesn't that seem less than satisfying?

So from that perspective I can see an argument made for the language of the Basic book of the B/X set:




In this view, Lawful is equal to good and Chaotic is equal to evil. Here the labels aren't merely about your habits of organization and attitudes about structure, laws, and so on. The labels indicate which side of the eternal struggle you really are on.

Now for some folks this is all a bunch of useless navel-gazing. You could have a very brutal, basic campaign setting in which ideas about good and evil are simply not addressed at the game level. Good and evil are what comes out of play, not what is codified in the rules. Perhaps in this type of setting the gods are aloof (ala Conan) or weird and unintelligible. Or nonexistent. In these schemes "good" and "evil" are not real in the sense of the greater structure of the universe. They are labels we assign down here on earth in the daily grind. They have value to us because we give them value, not because of some external source.

In that sort of setting you could do with Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic as indicators of habit, organization, and attitudes about society without any mention of good or evil. Spells that target "good" and "evil" would then have to be re-interpreted. What is "good"? "Evil"? Is it merely the intention to do harm or the intention to help? Then what is harm? What is help?

I can sympathize with the DM who, puzzling this out, simply ditches alignment altogether. Who needs it? In fact in my current Doomslakers campaign my house rules document basically does that (more-or-less):


(You can see how I was hedging my bets, weaseling out of commitment...I just wasn't sure about this whole alignment thing. Still not sure!)

Detecting Evil

Alignment has always been weird to me. And obviously it is the biggest point of contention in discussions of D&D.

The classic system uses 3 alignments: Law, Chaos, and Neutrality. This is how those alignments are described in B/X D&D:



So there is no mention of good or evil in those descriptions, though the descriptions in the Basic Set do include some good/evil language. I suppose that means one could be a chaotic character and be...good. This notion is upheld in other places within the text, such as the description of the spell Detect Evil:



For years I didn't really understand this. And it is mainly because of my tendency to assume a LOT about what is in these books without actually reading them for years at a time. It is possible that I haven't read the description of Detect Evil in 25 or more years. So I believe I have made the mistake of assuming that a Detect Evil spell will reveal alignment. It doesn't. It only reveals intentions. So you could have a chaotic, villainous NPC in a scene in which that NPC is really only interested in the same goal as the other PCs, such as escaping a dungeon. Casting Detect Evil on him will not reveal anything.

Now it may be the case that once everyone finds an escape route the bastard turns on them. But to allow Detect Evil to predict a future that is not even being actively contemplated by the target of the spell would be to grant that spell enormous power.

The spell does indicate that items can be determined to be evil or not. I suppose this is because most items have no active agency. They simply are or are not evil.

The classic 3-point alignment system is actually quite useful, creatively. I love the 9-point AD&D system because it adds all those nuances. But if your alignment says NOTHING about your moral character that leaves a ton of freedom for you to explore the character in play.

And what about monsters? It seems like the monsters with a lawful alignment tend to be described as good or at least peaceable. But the chaotic monsters tend to be pure evil. Perhaps that is why lawful seems to indicate good and chaotic indicates evil? Sripping away the moral element you could create a chaotic monster that is described as being good, perhaps helpful to PCs under the right conditions.

But chaos is still described as selfish and untrustworthy. In a sense that aligns more readily with evil than good, since good suggests the opposite. I suppose that means in the end you can have a good chaotic creature...but it would still be a bit of a monkey wrench type of creature...getting in the way or causing trouble. Like some kind of imp.

/alignment musings for now.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Souvenir...You Ugly Duckling

When I'm thinking of publishing material that is inspired by a particular iconic book I sometimes like to get the fonts right. So B/X used the font Souvenir. Accordingto this article it is #7 of the 8 worst fonts ever.

"Real men don’t set Souvenir," wrote the type scholar Frank Romano in the early 1990s, by which time he had already been performing character assassination on the type for over a decade. At every opportunity in print and online, Romano would have a go. ‘Souvenir is a font fatale . . . We could send Souvenir to Mars, but there are international treaties on pollution in outer space . . . remember, friends don’t let friends set Souvenir.’

I'm not a typesetter and I realize that typesetting and graphic design is a delicate and intricate art and a true professional can spot bad fonts and bad font choices when the other 99% of us will NEVER see what the heck they are talking about. I mean, these people pay attention to the kerning for pete's sake. The size of a serif matters. So I can accept that, among professionals, this font is no good.

But I love Souvenir. It's a great font. And I know this is really ONLY because of B/X D&D. Had that book been typeset with some other font I would love that font. Heck, I love Futura for no other reason than AD&D.

In a sense this gets at what it means to be a "fan" of a thing. Do we love D&D because it is a fantastic game system...or do we love D&D because it's the game we grew up with and the game that has the history? Is it because D&D gave us joy and we want to hold onto that joy? I suspect it is more the latter than the former. And this is coming from a self-professed D&D maniac.


I love Souvenir because it was the face of B/X D&D and when I see the font it makes me happy. Not because is a superior font, but because it is a familiar, beloved conduit between me and my favorite version of my favorite game. Warts and all.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Goblin Enchantress Class by Benjamin Baugh

Benjamin Baugh's Goblin Enchantress is one of my favorite character classes of all time. I would LOVE to play this class in a game or have someone in my game play this class. Now, I will say this class could be described more succinctly in fewer words (a goal I strive for myself). But I'm not complainin'. This class has exactly one ability: to summon and command goblins. Boom!

And it doesn't hurt that Cedric Plante delivers a beautiful drawing to illustrate the Goblin Enchantress! Go and check it out.

Spiritualist Class by Mateo Diaz

Mateo Diaz at gloomtrain created a neat little character class called the Spiritualist. It is written for Lamentations of the Flame Princess but converts to B/X or Labyrinth Lord lickety-split.

The Spiritualist.

The idea is that the Spiritualist casts rituals to summon and bind spirits such as gnomes and undine. Pretty neat.

Character Class: Sarik

For my campaign and a B/X class book I'm working on, here is the Sarik. This is what came out when I was noodling an idea for a lizard man character class. This dovetails with a rather long discussion I've been having with my friend Cyd about what a character class actually is and it is part of my new-found love and admiration of race-as-class.

Here is the PDF for your pleasure and B/X style enjoyment.


Leering Troll

Troll, Leering

No. Enc: 1d4 (2d4)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 5+3
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, or special
Damage: 1d6/1d6/1d10
Save: F5
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XIX
XP: 860

These troll-cousins get their name from the wicked grin always plastered across their evil faces. Leering trolls feed on the suffering and misery in the creatures they target. They will eat their victims, eventually, but not before torturing them as long as possible. If it can drag a victim to its lair, a leering troll and its companions will torture the helpless creature for days. This, apparently, is why it grins.

Leering trolls are about 7' tall with sickly yellow and green skin that is always bursting with painful sores. They do not regenerate in the same way as their cousins. Instead, leering trolls will regenerate 1 hit point for each hit point of damage they inflict upon a target. They are extremely sensitive to the condition of the target and will avoid killing it outright. If the target is within 4 hit points of death the troll will vomit a stinking brown liquid up to 10' at the target. On a failed save vs. paralysis the target falls into a comatose state. It will be aware of its surroundings but completely paralyzed and unable to communicate. If a leering troll hits a target for a deathblow it does not regenerate hit points for that strike.


The sores on this creature's skin secrete a flame-repelling goo causing them to take only half damage from fire-based attacks.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Brog Nogs

Here's a monster that's showed up in some of my comics and in many of my scripts and RPG notes over the years. I hope to use them in my campaign soon...

Brog Nog

No. Enc: 10-100
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6
Save: F1
Morale: 4 (see below)
Hoard Class: I
XP: 22

These 3' mouthy beasts look a bit like walking eggs with spotted, froglike skin and no eyes. They sense their surroundings primarily by sound and are able to hear noises 90% of the time within 90’. They are usually encountered in the employ of a wizard. They are not brave, as represented by their low morale. For every 10 brog nogs in a group the morale of each individual is improved by 1. Brog nogs attack by leaping onto their targets and biting. They can hop onto each other up to 3 individuals high and bite at targets, essentially occupying the same space and allowing more brog nogs to attack per round. If 6 or more brog nogs attack at once they will attempt to grab their opponent and drag them to the ground (save vs. paralysis to avoid). They are completely immune to all forms of mental control and mind magic and cannot be held. They take only half damage from lightning, fire, and cold-based attacks. These beasts are not very smart individually but a group can understand and follow directions as well as a person with Int 7. They speak only two words: “brog” and “nog”. By repeating these in various tones they are able to communicate with one another quite well.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Frimmsreach Episode #35

EPISODE #35

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 12-08-14
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth

Trapped in the tomb! Frothgar prays to Frimm for guidance and Frimm reveals that the tomb is riddled with deadly traps. Stairs and statues and doors...all trapped. This place was not built for guests.

Vek seems to be mad. He's reading the walls, muttering like an idiot about the "deep mother". Meanwhile Sparruu approaches two twin doors upon which are the faces of serpents. He holds up the serpentine statue head and lo and behold the doors react...the locks and traps seem to lower with a click.

Vek grins at this. "The children are free! See their beauty..." Azmooth, sick of Vek's inane ramblings, clocks him, knocking him out.

Beyond the doors Sparruu hears the grating sound of stone on stone and loud thumps...lids being removed from coffins? The doors open and out step emaciated, mummified snake men! They slither toward the party, hissing their disapproval at being disturbed. The battle ensues.

And it is a short one. The mummies seem weakened by time. Though Argus, bravely taking lead, takes a serious slash from a scimitar the team is able to put arrows and fire to the creatures, battering them down. Vek, seeing this, attacks the party, crying "Blasphemy!"

And so Vek must die. By fire. And in his final moments it is as if a veil is lifted and he returns to normal. "You must not open the..."

But he dies before finishing the sentence.

Searching the tombs reveals sarcophagi laden with treasures. Gold and silver rings and necklaces. And perhaps a cursed brooch.

And a secret door...which the wolf headed mace that Sparruu wields easily opens as if it were a key. Stairs leading down, down into darkness. But wait. The heroes shut the door. It is unwise to go deeper into this labyrinth at this point. Better to check the other doors that were not opened already. Trapped, they must find a way out!

Another door is checked and opened and reveals a room with 5 serpentine statues. The statues speak, asking the business of these intruders. "Do you have the key?" They ask. And indeed Frothgar produces the mace as a sign that he has the key. "Show us a sign. Slay your weakest member in the old way of the Deep Mother."

Sparruu, remembering how Vek raised his brother from the dead with the magic dagger, raises Vek. The animated demon slayer does as Sparruu wishes and poses as a helpless victim as the party slays him before the snake statues. A foul scene, but perhaps necessary to pass the guards without a fight.

A secret door is revealed and the party enters yet another tomb bearing a sarcophagus. But as they hesitate the snake statues realize they are being fooled. They close in to attack! Sparruu lets the door slam shut...

Now our heroes are sealed in a tomb within a tomb in a room with a rich sarcophagus and their only way out is through a room with five serpentine guards.

The life of an adventurer is never dull.


End Episode #35

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Character Class: Botten

The botten are a race of constructs I've had kicking around in my head for many years. They mainly inhabit the coldest region of my campaign world Gnarl, though I have yet to bring them into the actual game.

The inspiration for creating this class was simply to mess around with making a "simple" race-class. I was actually staring at the halfling's XP table from the B/X Expert book when I jotted down some notes and that is probably why the Botten class has a level limit of 8. If you don't like level limits, I suggest simply requiring 120,000 XP per level beyond 8 and giving them +2 hit points with each additional level.

Here's the PDF of the class for you pleasure and entertainment.



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Skraz

Skraz

No. Enc: 1d6 (3d6)
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 1 weapon or bite
Damage: 1d6+1 and special or 1d8
Save: M-U5
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: VIIx2
XP: 800

Skraz are evil, psychic bird people who wish to rule the world. Some say if not for their vicious in-fighting and jealousy they may have a shot at doing it. Skraz stand about 6' tall on average and are quite thin. Their wings appear more like feathered arms and are unable to grant them flight. Skraz will avoid personal combat, preferring to send minions instead. But if forced to fight they wield a jagged short sword +1 that causes mental pain with each successful hit. Targets hit by this sword must save vs. spells or suffer an intense headache that renders them stunned for 1d4 rounds. A skraz may also bite with its powerful beak for 1d8 points of damage.

Every skraz wears a magic cloak, the color and power of which is determined by random 1d6 roll. A cloak may be used 3 times per day.

1. Blue cloak grants ESP.
2. Yellow cloak grants Confusion.
3. Red cloak grants Magic Missile.
4. Green cloak grants Shield.
5. Purple cloak grants Charm Person or Monster.
6. Orange cloak grants all of the cloaks' powers (only a skraz lord may wear it).

Those attempting to use a skraz cloak must pass a saving throw vs. spells or suffer the effects of a confusion spell and be unable to use the it.

Skraz can detect minds on a 4-in-6 roll within 60'. They may implant simple thoughts or images in such minds within the same range (save vs. spells to resist). Any mind-affecting spells cast against a skraz or mind-affecting devices used against a skraz have a 4-in-6 chance of failing. If this die roll is a 1 the spell or effect is reversed upon the caster. Skraz may cast a single first level magic-user spell per day as a first level caster and may fly once per day.

For every skraz encountered they will be accompanied by 1d6 goblin slaves. A skraz stronghold, usually built in a cliff-side cave or other lofty place, will house not only 3d6 skraz and their goblin slaves but also 3d10 trained hawks. The lair is always lorded by a skraz of 8 HD who casts spells as a 5th level magic-user. This skraz will possess an orange cloak and will probably be the only skraz with such a cloak.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Frimmsreach Episode #34

EPISODE #34

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 12-01-14
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth

The door is ancient and sealed shut by time. Peering at it, Vek suddenly notices faint traces of letters...the door has writing on it! The script, he says, is tong tet, one of the necromantic languages. He cannot read it...but his dead brother Lor can.

Pulling out his brother's black and silver dagger he cuts his palm, dripping blood on the burnt body and calling forth his brother's spirit. The body jerks to life, walking like a zombie.

What is with this Vek??

The corpse of Lor stands before the door and whispers in an ancient tongue the writing he sees there. Vek works it out, mouthing the words:

Oblivion is the warmth we crave
Beyond this door is our grave
We cease our wicked ways
Until again the light of day
We are lost children

Vek commands his brother to then rip open the doors. He does, and a spray of black needles pepper his burnt corpse. "You are free now, my brother." Vek whispers, turning his brother's body to ash.

Inside is a long corridor flanked by statues of snake men. Cautiously they are checked and found to be trapped by Sparruu's prayers to Miana Musina. But how are the traps sprang? Azmooth whips out a boomerang and throws it down the corridor. All the snakes lower their swords and shoot black needles fruitlessly! Ancient traps. Mechanical in nature, requiring to be reset by hand.

The blue gemstone eyes are pilfered from the heads of the statues. The last one has red eyes. After knocking off its head Frothgar attempts to pry the eyes loose...and a beam of scorching light sears his hands!

An idea...he holds the severed head forward and pokes at the eyes...beams of read shoot forth. Is this a new ranged weapon? We shall see.

Further into the tomb they go. Vek makes cryptic comments about the "lost children".

"Long ago a king's sons went missing and he offered a great reward for their return. But no one could find them. They are the lost children."

Sounds legit.

Sparruu's miracle of trap-seeing lasts a few moments longer and they see that the place is riddled with traps. It will be slow going.

Along some of the walls are murals depicting the evil of vile monsters. One of them seems to depict the Shrine of Worms! Could all of this be connected?

After using a long pole to acquire a wolf-headed mace, which only Frothgar was able to wield without electric shock, they notice the stench of nobberlochs approaching. Azmooth sees them entering. Then a woman in red and black robes commands them to seal the doors. Two arrows fly from Azmooth's bow and one of the finds purchase in the female before the doors slam shut, sealing them in the tomb...


End of #34

Frimmsreach Episode #33

EPISODE #33

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 11-24-14
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth
Supporting Cast: Quilliam

Once more into the cellar! Our heroes dive into that dank place upon hearing the demon-slaying brothers in peril. But poor Quilliam has taken too much abuse at the hands of spectres and nobblerlochs, he cannot proceed and must stay behind. Not to worry, Sparruu the intrepid gnome forges ahead.

Below in the cellar Argus and Azmooth proceed through the broken wall to aid Vek and Lor in their battle with the stinking nobberlochs. Frothgar arrives soon and the battle is joined.

What’s going on with these foul beasts? Their flesh is soft and weak, their attacks weak and pathetic. They fall like wheat under the scythe. But poor Lor…his neck riddled with wormy holes…undulating…pulsating…burning! Could it be that the bite of a nobberloch infects you with their disease?!

The tunnel outside Bjarn’s cellar leads down through a shaft to a dead end where a slew of nobberlochs works tirelessly to uncover some ancient door. The heroes make a stand at a collapsed wall, picking off the nobberlochs one at a time through the bottleneck. Arrows, spiritual hammers, and stones decimate 30 of the monstrous stinkers until they are no more.

Azmooth, barely escaping the bite of a nobberloch, notices the worms crawling from Lor’s neck. Time to act! Sparruu burns the neck, hoping to cure him. But the result is the death of the demon slayer. And yet the thing in his neck still wriggles. Azmooth “accidentally” sets the body aflame, raising the ire of Vek. This hurt will not go away soon.

But the door…the ancient door is mostly uncovered. Argus and Azmooth finish the work while Sparruu checks the door’s integrity…and trappiness.


End of Episode #33

Frimmsreach Episode #32

EPISODE #32

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 11-17-14
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth
Supporting Cast: Quilliam

Camping out next to Blart’s place the crew are surprised to meet 4 strangers upon the morning. Fjarlneski Itti is a giant-slayer. Her traveling companions are the demon-hunting brothers Lim, Lor, and Vek. Over a breakfast of gariboo steaks they discuss the happenings in the area, with Fjarlneski commenting that she has spotted or killed many more orcs and giants than would normally be encountered.

The brothers are immediately transfixed by the group’s story about the Shrine of Worms and offer to go down with them. Though grim and mirthless, their assistance as experienced demon hunters is welcomed.

But other matters must be attended to before a descent into darkness. Frothgar and the grim brothers head back to Frostmyr where he will meet with General Ktrakster and the brothers will attempt to hunt and destroy the dreaded spectre haunting Bjarn’s place. Meanwhile the others hoof it to Frimmsreach where they purchase needed goods, wanted goods, and slaves. The slaves, purchased with the majority of Bjarn’s riches, are then set free! Sparruu, holy gnome of Miana Musina, believing the treasure to have been cursed anyway, has pulled a fast one on the slavers and given 37 people their freedom.

While some slaves immediately rush off to make their way back home some agree to come to Frostmyr and perhaps join that community, helping to rebuild and repopulate the devastated town. Higgi, default headman of Frostmyr, is very pleased.

In Bjarn’s place things look a bit grim for the grim brothers. Lor is found dead and the sounds of battle emanate from below, in the cellar.

Sparruu flings open the door to be met with the full force of the nobberloch’s stench! While he yaks heartily, Quilliam casts light on a spear tip and Argus plunges in. Let’s hope the 10 gp spent on nose plugs in Frimmsreach was well spent…


End of #32

Frimmsreach Episode #30/31

EPISODE #30 & #31

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 11-03-14/11/10/14
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth
Supporting Cast: Quilliam

Further searching of Bjarn’s place reveals a plethora of items that may or may not be useful to our heroes. Sleds and tents, pants, shoes, hats, costume jewelry, salt, salted fish, rare spices, lanterns, oil, goblin oil! But what of these foul smelling creatures lurking in the cellar? It is decided to attempt to battle one of the nobberlochs and test their abilities.

Argus and Azmooth descend into the cellar and quickly lure the creatures out of the hole in the wall. Battle ensues. But upstairs some mysterious force slams the door shut, locking it. Sword blows and flaming oil are dispatched and Sparruu masterfully jimmies the hinges of the door to get it open, freeing the party from the stinking cellar.

The door is sealed again with more creatures lurking below. Upstairs Quilliam is found passed out. Soon the fourth spectre makes herself known. The combat is fierce and the ghostly apparition flees, seemingly back down into the cellar.

During the fray Azmooth discovers a secret door in the floor. Soon the party uncovers Bjarn’s stash of treasure! Inside the two chests are many gold and silver coins as well as ample jewels and gems! But how much should go to the village? How much to Quilliam, as the new proprietor of Bjarn’s place? Are these moral questions too heady??

The team decides enough is enough and its time to get on with the plan. They gather the supplies they need and, along with a drunken Killminster Barrackbomb, they exit the premises and head to Blart’s place to camp for the night before heading back down, down, down to the depths of the Shrine of Worms where the great dwarven hammer Thrumbok was lost.

End of Episodes #30 and #31


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Labyrinth Lord class: Arcane Savant (revised)

Got some good feedback on this today and made a few revisions. I gave the class its own level progression table, which is very similar to a Cleric. Here's the revised PDF. For the record, I updated the original PDF so when you click the other post you'll get this new one.

The Arcane Savant, a Labyrinth Lord and B/X class.



Labyrinth Lord Class: Arcane Savant

Here's a little class I created recently. It has not been tested. My goal was to make something extremely simple and as elegant as possible that sounded like it would be fun to play.

Right off the bat I recognize a few things about this class that might be problematic for some folks. First of all, if an Arcane Savant isn't given some scrolls at level 1 she will go into play with no actual spells at all. And that's ok. She can, after all, mimic a spell once she sees it being cast. And if she finds a scroll or spellbook she can cast from it. But all that aside, she is still as good as a Thief when it comes to combat so let the creative player have fun keeping her alive long enough to score some sweet scrolls!

PDF link below.

The Arcane Savant, a Labyrinth Lord and B/X class.

ARCANE SAVANT
Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: None
Hit Dice: d4

While wizards work hard and put their souls at risk to learn magic an Arcane Savant has the rare talent to look at a spell on paper and cast it as easily as reading poetry. This ability is not trained, it is inherent. The Arcane Savant dose not possess the skills of a Magic-User and may not memorize and prepare spells in the way a wizard does. Rather than memorizing and preparing spells the Arcane Savant must cast directly from a book or scroll or, in some cases, by mimicking a spellcaster.

Arcane Savants may attempt to cast any spell of any origin as long as the spell's level is equal to or less than their own experience level (see details below).

Arcane Savants may wear any armor. However, when wearing armor heavier than studded leather they are unable to cast spells. They may use any small or medium sized weapon. They use the level progression, attack values, and saving throws of a Thief.

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Bookish Sorcery: An Arcane Savant may cast spells from books and scrolls of any type. The spell will vanish or the scroll will be destroyed per the normal rules of magic. However, if the character passes a saving throw vs. spells minus the spell's level then the spell or scroll is preserved and can be cast again.

Magical Mimic: If the Arcane Savant passes a saving throw vs. spells she may mimic any spell of her own experience level or lower that she has observed being cast within the previous 6 turns.

Magical Tinker: The Arcane Savant can use any magic item that a Magic-User can use. She can figure out how to use any other magic item by passing a saving throw vs. spell-like devices.

Read Magic: An Arcane Savant can read any magical writing by passing a saving throw vs. spells. If the writing is a spell, see the Savant's other skills that cover spell casting.

Scroll Scripter: An Arcane Savant may attempt to copy a spell from a scroll or book onto another scroll by passing a saving throw vs. spells minus the spell's level. She may do this once per week, per level. Scrolls or spells in books are not destroyed or otherwise lost by this copying process.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Frimmsreach Episode #29

EPISODE #29

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 10-27-14
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth
Supporting Cast: Quilliam

Sparruu leads them to the chest. But alas, though the four black and red robes remain, along with the statue of a worm-faced demon, the sacrificial knives are missing!

Curious. What’s that weird sound…like whispering?

The Deep Mother moves upon you…”

Frothgar prays to Frimm for vision and peers around the place. An evil figure floats above the ground! What apparition is this?

The figure zooms across the room. Argus tries to tackle it and fails. Azmooth hurls a dagger, missing. Her dagger sticks into the opposite wall and then comes zooming back. Magic!

All heroes assault the creature as it pulls out one of the wicked knives and throws it. Argus summons the power of his newfound sword, the blade called Haverok, and cleaves the ghostly thing in two. It’s hiss and howl dissipate into thin air.

But more apparitions remain. Down in Bjarn’s cellar…where the foulness of the stinking creatures remains – creatures Azmooth called “nobberlochs”. Two more spectres are joined in battle and once again Haverok comes to bear, cleaving one in two. The third spectre is promptly dealt with as well. Is there yet another down in the darkness? Four cloaks and four spectres?


End of Episode #29

Frimmsreach Episode #28

EPISODE #28

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 10-20-14
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth
Supporting Cast: Quilliam, Gul’Daryh

The toll of the battle is high, most of the villagers are dead or fled. Over the course of several days Frothgar and Sparruu help with holy rites, healing and other Clerical matters. Hunters and fishers trickle in from other areas to help or, in some cases, to leech off the remains.

Gul’Daryh takes it upon himself to step into the role of sheriff for the poor local sheriff was killed. He also plans to restore the temple on the lake as a shrine to the elemental gods. His path of adventure with the party has come to an end, for now.

Quilliam, having come so close to death, holes up in Bjarn’s old place to study his books and improve his craft.

Among the newcomers to the village are some seedy hunters. Frothgar prays to Frimm for the vision to see evil and is able to stroll about the village, noticing those folks who may be up to no good. He notes one in particular, a surly hunter named Luud who has been eyeing the impressive sword Argus took from Urk-Kak the Swine. He and Argus have a mutual dislike, though Luud attempts to play nice with a thin veneer of courtesy.

Frothgar meets with Krakster Farznickle, the dwarven general. Krakster says
The hammer that fell into the pit…it was not other than Thrumbok! The very hammer of the north! With that hammer in our hands we could deal a deadly blow to the wicked norg who stole our city so long ago. But I cannot go after it. There is much to do…might you and your capable friends do this deed?”

Frothgar is eager to go after the mighty artifact. But can he convince the others?

Meanwhile a new face in town…she appears at the south end and has a short exchange with the hunter Frimlod, who is on watch. It is Azmooth, a wilderness-ready woman from a bit to the south. Her daggers and bow mark her as an adventurer or hunter of some kind.

And it turns out she knows Quilliam…perhaps intimately?

Soon the crew is sitting in the common room having a biscut and drinking bark brew. The food is not the same without Edda’s hand in the bowl, Frimm rest her soul.

Sparruu enters, a bit addled. He has discovered something in Bjarn’s place. A locked and trapped chest bearing accoutrements of cultish design. Could Bjarn have been in on the Shrine of Worms? It seems unlikely.

Plans are discussed. To go once more into the Shrine of Worms in search of Thrumbok, the dwarf hammer? It is to be seen. First, a quick trip to Bjarn’s place to see what sort of supplies may be acquired…and to check out those cultish accoutrements.


End of Episode #28

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hyperactive World Builders Beware

A note to the world-builder DM.

Hey DM...nobody cares about your lovingly crafted, delicately balanced, softly nuanced epic fantasy realm and quasi-Tolkienian meta-story. They mostly just want to find treasure, throw fireballs, and behead some orcs. This may be a bitter pill to swallow, I know. But if you want players at your table you need to choke it down.

I remember an incident in the 90s when I gathered about 5 or 6 good old gamers under one roof to play. It had been several years since I played and I was excited. I was so excited I spent the previous weeks prepping an elaborate setting. This culminated with me handing each player a little packet of information about the world. I figured they would read it at the table, then create a PC that fit MY world.

The game never got played. The handouts never got read. The characters never got made. I suppose I realized my mistake when I handed one player the little packet of my mini-epic and she smiled, rolled it up, and began socializing.

Defeat!

It's a common problem. You might call it the Seminar Yawner Syndrome. The players, upon being handed a stapled packet, feel like they just walked into a seminar. Cue the desire to look at a clock and wonder when it will be over.

This problem has other manifestations as well. What about the Storyteller Syndrome? When I was younger I had a DM who loved to weave tales...about his own character. This got so bad that one of the last sessions we ever played involved his own character caught up in a fantastic trial with emotional moments, heroic struggles, and a trapped audience. We rolled no dice and made no important choices that night. And it sucked.

That's not to say you can't weave tales and offer handouts. Quite the contrary. Players appreciate goodies...as long as the investment of their time and energy is accompanied by a payoff in play. Nobody wants to read about the history of the kings of your version of France unless it is going to have an immediate and visceral impact on their play experience. So do yourself a favor and don't force it upon them!

If you want players to come back they gotta have fun. And "fun", subjective as it is, involves agency. Choice. Involvement in what's happening at the table. That kinda stuff. If the game isn't about the PCs then the game isn't about ANYTHING THAT MATTERS. Your epic setting be damned, these people want to behead some orcs.

So you better damn well let them. The world builder in you needs to cut back on the energy drinks and allow itself to become a partner in the creative act of shared storytelling, dice rolling, and the beheading of evil things. Consider it a give-and-take. You get to create a world as long as you are willing to share some of that creative space with your players. If you don't let them in they will simply walk away.


At that point you might as well just write fiction.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Frimmsreach Episode #27

EPISODE #27

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 10-13-14
Cast: Sparruu, Gul’Daryh, Frothgar, Argus
Supporting Cast: Quilliam, Skat

With stinking monsters crawling forth and several of our heroes puking their brains out as a result the team is on the retreat. Grabbing the surviving dwarves, including the stunned Killminster (now freed from his control with the death of Ayall’Nyar). But Skat is not in good shape. The stench and foulness has poisoned him. In a moment of courage he screams “Run!” while taking on the approaching horde with his glowing green dagger.

The heroes do not see Skat’s fate…the green glow disappears in a wave of monsters. Surely the intrepid scoundrel perished! Brave soul.

The team notices that one elf survived. She rushes toward the exit but disappears. Secret door! With the help of Killminster the door is quickly opened and the team slips into another hallway, closely pursued by stinking monsters with wormy mouths.

They find themselves in a weird torture chamber with a dry basin that once held liquid. Bones are scattered across its bottom. But the fleeing elf has ran ahead and Killminster spurs them on. “There is a battle raging on the surface!” He cries. The orcs are attacking the village of Frostmyr! Perhaps to draw attention away from the ritual?

Frothgar dons his magic boots that make him run like lightning. He chases the elf down, striking at her. But she is wily and quick and narrowly dodges each swing of the axe. Argus drops his own axe and runs like a wild beast, leaping for the fleeing elf. But no dice! She’s just too fast! And now she goes invisible…

As she flees past Frothgar she stabs the dwarven Cleric, revealing her position. The heroes descend upon her and soon the elf is dead.

Quilliam takes her leather armor of red and black, which seems to have a magical charm. She is found to possess a skull filled with poison, which Frothgar destroys (nearly killing himself!). And Quilliam takes the elf’s cutlass, which Argus is certain radiates strange vibes.

Onward! The long corridor leads to the cellar of Bjarn in the village of Frostmyr. Down here the smell of nasty, foul monsters is also present. The door is blocked and the team goes out into the snow…and battle.

The village is in the clutches of a great fight! Dozens of orcs and dwarves go at each other. Villagers are fallen. A giant, sabertooth ogre rages! Ur-Kak the Swine, leader of the orcs, hacks dwarves left and right!

And a chair, on its own, is doing battle! What?!

The strange magic the villagers hinted at, that Blart warned again, has animated the chair and, possibly, other things. But no time to investigate.

Sparruu takes to the air and belches fire on the ogre and a few surrounding orcs. Quilliam unrolls a scroll he’s been carrying and reads the arcane words of Magic Missile, sending bolts of electric energy into the monster’s chest. It turns, angered, spewing froth! It charges the hapless wizard!

Argus, charging the ogre, is intercepted by Ur-Kak who lays into the barbarian with a mighty chopping blow from his broadsword. Badly injured, Argus turns to face this challenge.
Quilliam, fearing the 12' monster bearing down on him, reads another spell from his scroll, knowing that by doing so he cannot later copy it into his own spellbook. He immediately turns invisible!

Gul’Daryh leaps gracefully, plunging an arrow into the monster’s throat with his bare hands. And Quilliam, sneaking around without being seen, drives the saber into the ogre’s back…an act of fear and rage and desperation! Sparruu flies overhead and dives silently upon the beast, rending with his claws, sending a spray of blood into the snow. The beast’s death rattle sprays a mist of blood.

Frothgar, Killminster, and Argus face Ur-Kak. Argus tries valiantly to wrestle the orc chief to the ground but is too weakened from loss of blood. A blow from Killminster’s hammer and another from Frothgar’s axe are enough to send Ur-Kak to whatever darkness he calls gods.

There in the bloody snow Argus sees that the blade wielded by Ur-Kak is none other than Haverok, a barbarian blade of legend!


End of Episode #27

Frimmsreach Episode #26

EPISODE #26

SUMMARY:

Game Date: 10-06-14
Cast: Sparruu, Gul’Daryh, Frothgar, Argus
Supporting Cast: Quilliam, Skat, Silverchain

Orcs! And worse…the hunched, thick figures of drokk soldiers rushing toward the party. Argus engages the drokks with fearsome rage, slashing and hacking like a wild man! Quilliam carefully throws darts with deadly precision. Skat sneaks into the shadows to get a better view.

Gul’Daryh nocks an arrow, takes careful aim, and cringes at the sound of a breaking bowstring! No!

Frothgar prays to Frimm and several drokks are suddenly held in place, unable to move. Sparruu prays to Miana Musina who delivers similar justice to the foul beasts. And Quilliam works his arcane magic, sending a host of orcs to sleepytown.

As the battle progresses the party winds its way up each side of the stairs, flanking the cultists. The platform is flat and at its center is a hole into darkness. Kneeling at it are 5 dwarves in some sort of trance. Surrounding them are 5 elves in black and red robes chanting sinister words. The leader, Ayall’Nyar, carries a terrifying mace topped with a skull that has a spiked tongue dripping blood. Next to him stands Killminster Barrackbomb, dwarf ally! But he is possessed or controlled and bears a mighty hammer of obvious magical significance.

As the fighting continues the elf leader, arrogant, underestimates our heroes and, after slaying one of the kneeling dwarves, is cut down. He falls into darkness, taking the evil mace with him.

Now the smell of foulness rises from the pit. The strange, stinking creatures encountered earlier begin to crawl up from the darkness of the well!

Sparruu pulls out a tye-died bottle of liquid. A little something he’s been saving since the raid on the ganguth’s lair….a potion that transforms him into any creature he desires. Suddenly Sparruu disappears and in his place is a small red dragon! Testing the limits of his form, he breathes a blast of fire on the remaining cultists, frying several of them to ashes as well as catching some of the creatures trying to climb out of the well. The moment of fire reveals to everyone that from the well is crawling many, many nasty things.

Time to leave! But Gul’Daryh, Quilliam, Frothgar, and Silverchain are engaged with drokk guards. And now Silverchain, hit with a spear, falls into the pit. Everyone has taken a beating and depleted their arcane and divine resources.

Retreat!

End of Episode #26