Saturday, February 27, 2010

Swords & Wizardry White Box Arrives from Brave Halfling

I've really been looking forward to this - Brave Halfling/Mythmere Games' Swords & Wizardry White Box finally arrived today.

The very good:

The art looks great, I like it better black on white (the color looks a little 16 bit console-ish to me). The artwork on the side of the box is great too. It matches the original D&D white box in size perfectly. I love that there are four books, the dice are adequate (I like that they're different colors for beginners' sake), the pencil is cute if a little pointless (ha), the inclusion of graph paper and Primer are appreciated - in short, this is exactly what I would want to give to my nephews as an introduction to our favorite game. The rules are cleaned up, simple and clearly written. Anyone could be up and running with this in no time, really all it needs is a module (say, Chgowiz's Quick Start) to both make it nearly instantly playable and serve as a brief example of a classic adventure for someone totally new to the game and who's chosen or been tasked to DM for the first time. I'm sure others might disagree - but the B series of TSR modules were invaluable to me and my friends (kids at the time, admittedly) in terms of illustrating how to design our first adventure.

The slightly bad:

While generally the box looks great, some of the bottom box's paper is coming up on the inside and already needs to be glued back down. One of the 4 booklets was badly mis-stapled and will have to be redone. Opening it will cause the pages in the front of the book to pull up and not align with the second half, besides just being unattractive from the front. I'm disappointed that this was overlooked or approved as acceptable, but not surprised that there might be a QC issue in the first run.

This is the first boxed Old School rpg as far as I'm aware of, and I'm excited for Mythmere, Brave Halfling, and the community that helped bring this about. Truly a great day for O.S. gamers!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mapmaking with a Dungeon Master in Training

While getting ready to post these, I was listening / watching Radiohead on YouTube, and saw this video which seemed somewhat eerily apropos.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Folie à Deux: Haiku

Blink Dog disappears
Rabbit pokes head up from hole
Blink Dog reappears
Cockatrice hatches -
Who the hell keeps a toad on
an egg for three weeks?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

OSRIC Session Journal: Options

Having re-entered the tower after a delicious breakfast, we made our way to the armory again and then past it found the dead gnome. After searching the body and recovering a few items, Ouze the Cleric recommended that we go back to the armory and totally clear it out: he said he knew of nomads not far away who would gladly pay for the armor and weapons we’d found there, even if they weren’t in the best of shape.

Majority opinion was that we take his advice, so we threw everything (except a crossbow, that was carefully stashed away for later) over the edge of the tower, descended, got our horses, and followed Ouze’s lead to where he thought we might eventually come upon some nomads on a regularly taken trail. The weather turned bad, and as it was raining, Demurarg mentioned that she knew of a cave in the opposite direction of where we were going where we might take shelter, although she knew not what might lie within.

After unsuccessfully attempting to stash the horde of armor and weapons (very hard, rocky ground, no trees), the party decided to continue on the way Ouze had recommended, rain or not. Eventually they came to a place of standing rocks - obviously a ceremonial site of some kind. After waiting there a couple of hours their lit torch had signaled a group of four nomads who approached the site. A trade was made, and Ouze reminded everyone how he had loaned the party some money so that Vadco might get some basic armor and weaponry. After paying him back, there was almost nothing left over save a greenish gem that Gladric the Thief pocketed.

The nomads departed after conveying how their shaman had foretold of the group of adventurers, and recommended that they stay put so that they could notify said shaman who would then meet with the party in a few hours. This they agreed to, and the shaman eventually appeared and invited everyone to follow him into an underground space beneath one of the standing stones.

There, in brief, the shaman (determined to be a druid through some specific questioning by Gladric) revealed that he had dreamt that this party had aided him and that they were destined to help him retrieve some magic artifact that would somehow restore balance. Gladric wanted to know how it would restore his credit and fill his wallet, and the druid conveyed that a great reward would be had also. Demurarg did not want to join the druid, but instead return to the tower and avenge her previous comrades. Vadco kept mentioning how everyone was ignoring him and that if they went North he’d lead them to an item that the local bandits’ captain wanted, and which might be used to defeat him for a reward.

Generally, it was thought that a return to the tower was best, to finish the business they had started there - there was only one higher level there to deal with, and Demurarg had said how she did not intend to go anywhere else. The party thought it best to see through the exploration and plundering of the tower, and asked the druid if he’d be willing to wait for their return. To this, he simply responded that he must meditate on it, and the session came to an end.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Seat of the Pants DM'ing and Another Delay of Game

I just couldn't do it anymore - My modus operandi had been to have some brief preparations and then to just DM spontaneously. If the party didn’t go the way I’d expected them to (trying to lure them via various hooks as I was), then I would grab some published material and wing it. I’d adjust the setting, names, and stats of creatures and move it along. It worked fine for me for awhile, but I finally decided that I needed a break from this.

The bottom line is that working with someone else’s creation doesn’t feel natural enough - there’s a certain amount of alienation from it. Of course in a sense I’m always acting as DM, but it feels like I’m even more acting when I’m using someone else’s script, rather than my own. Perhaps script is the wrong word here, because I don’t script (that is, write down any dialogue) beforehand of course, but script in terms of the setting, characters, and set. I really just wanted to put pencil in hand and craft my own dungeon. A simple kobold warren! Or who knows?

So we skipped tonight’s S&W session (already once delayed) and I played again in Nick’s own OSRIC campaign. In the end, the party might still choose to go in an unexpected direction (literally or metaphorically) from where’d I’d been more prepared for it to go. But dungeon creation is just so much fun on its own (and I’d forgotten that recently) that I’m glad to have realized something was amiss and to delay the game so I could spend some more time on preparation.

Nick's done a great job of throwing out hooks for his part. There's a tower to explore (that we've already begun), a Druid looking for a team to help him acquire a certain magic item to "restore balance", a group of bandits whose leader has a price on his head, and a cave to explore (the latter pointed out by an NPC as a place of possible shelter in the downpour we were experiencing). Or we could return to town and find any number of other possibilities.

The Monster of Montauk (Swords and Wizardry Bestiary Item)

Everyone's probably heard of the Montauk Monster by now. I've been meaning to stat the "monster" (a raccoon that washed ashore on Long Island) for quite a while. I'm sure I'm not the first, but I finally got around to it today - basic, but good for helping stock some upcoming low level adventures I need to put together.

Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 2 claws (1-2hp), 1 bite (1d4)
Saving Throw: 18
Special: None
Move: 6
Challenge level/XP: A/10A

The Montauk seems likely to be a cross between an owlbear and kobold. Standing about 3 feet tall, they are mangy and very stupid beasts - although fearless, perhaps as a result. Usually encountered alone or as a pair of nesting mates, their sharp claws and beaks can prove deadly to the average human adult. They prefer marshy areas near coastal estuaries and have been observed swimming short distances in lakes and at sea.

I also tinkered around a bit and put this into a pdf formatted for a 4x6 monster index card, with space on it for the hit points of the number of these creatures typically encountered (a bit silly here since there's only two spaces, but I think I like the idea in theory). In retrospect, this should have been designed for a 3x5 card, but it can probably be reformatted during printing and still come out fairly well. You can download the pdf here, thumbnails below...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mini Props - St. Martin's Shop

On our way out of the local annual Asian Festival yesterday, I saw a couple of items that seemed not too far off from 25mm mini scale. They were $3 each - at that price I thought why not? One seemed closer to scale than the other, but maybe I could make the lighthouse/tower thing be the abode of a gnome somewhere. Hmm, maybe that'd make it a pretty short and useless lighthouse. Anyhow, I'm guessing these were overstock, originally intended for sale at some super touristy shop on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean. For our purposes, the shop could contain the holy symbol, incense, and healing potions (Ack! Selling potions you say?!) of a local religious celebrity.

Here's a quickly GIMPed photo, with an old unpainted Grenadier thrown into the mix. I guess it's either a statue of St. Martin or the shop owner's gone way over the top with his colloidal silver imbibing.
I love found props like these. I remember using styrofoam packaging (like Zak recently) after Christmas while all the boxes were still around, as various structures in D&D. Though the use of minis in our games has always been minimal to nonexistent, I continue to enjoy them just for their own sake.

The Tomb Of Horrors Limerick

In The Tomb of Horrors there's a lich
Who can really prove to be a bitch
So nobody will blame
And there's really no shame
If your fellow explorers you ditch.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rolling Up S&W PCs with My Nephew: First Dice Set, Star Wars RPG You Say?

Tonight my eight year old nephew (eight and three quarters!) rolled up some characters using Swords & Wizardry Core. “I love D&D” he said, even though he hasn’t played in nine months or so. I guess he’s heard me talk about it here and there. He received his first ever set of polyhedral dice tonight as a gift. As an additional memento, I scanned in one of his 4x6 character cards. Yeah, they’re small, esp. for little kid writing! He’s developing his teeny scrawl skills though. It took us a while to get a couple of these done, but right after we finished with the elf, he said, “This is getting to be fun,” before we even started playing. That was encouraging - maybe it was because of my descriptions of spells (he chose “Charm Person”). We couldn’t accomplish playing before his bed time, considering the imperative of finishing watching Krull (he changed his mind and decided to give it a thumbs up after initially finding it boring) and of course Man vs. Wild. The latter show seems well suited to introducing a brand new, young D&D player to the ideas of survivalism and investigating your surroundings. We love that show, as silly as it sometimes is... After rolling up some characters we finally decided to take a break and watch some Clone Wars (the computer animated tv series, not the movie), which he loves.

At some point I mentioned that there are role playing game versions of Star Wars, and his eyes lit up just a little in interest. “Really?” - Yep, I said, but truth is that I know next to nothing about them, other than that I’ve heard and read some bad things. So is there any d6 or old schoolish version of Star Wars as an rpg? I’d love to see a type of S&W White Box Star Wars if you know what I mean. Maybe it’s out there, or something close to it is, already. Of course I’m familiar with Traveller, Star Frontiers, and X-Plorers. This would need to be something fully recognizable as part of the Star Wars franchise, but it'd have to be very rules light to interest us. Is there such a beast? It'd be nice to have him be able to play with my wife in her upcoming solo campaign, but it might not take. As much of a Zelda fan as he is, Star Wars trumps at the end of the day.

Update: Yeah, he named his elf "Bodabox". Don't look at his Aunt and Uncle, I can't remember ever buying a Bota Box! Mom?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Kobold As Race/Class in S&W:Core

I’ve been tossing around the idea of a large tribe of neutral alignment kobolds that live near Marqueyssac and whose chief is in the service of the High Druid there. Basically, for centuries this has been the case - the neutral kobolds both shun and are shunned by other kobold tribes in the area. There are numerous advantages that come with their serving the High Druid when called upon by him, the primary one being the protection he affords. In exchange, the kobolds offer their service as spies, messengers, and occasionally as guards or escorts. The Druid even trains the kobolds in his ways, the kobold chief actually having achieved the rank of Initiate of the Second Circle. The tribe has prospered greatly in this manner over quite some time, and their warren and members grow ever more sophisticated. Though they still love their underground domiciles, the kobolds of this tribe spent ever greater amounts of time above ground. Consequently their eyesight has adapted to sunlight.

In view of this, in game terms, I can see a strong possibility that eventually a kobold may join the PCs party as a NPC. This in turn might inspire the desire to play a kobold directly. So, I decided to sketch out some rules for this. They're really meant specifically for the Swords & Wizardry Dordogne Campaign I'm building (hence no kobolds as MUs or Assassins for example), but in case anyone might find of interest...

The Kobold as Race/Class

Although most kobolds are evil, foul smelling things, there are said to be some who have become more civilized. It’s this latter kind, as well as the most exceptional specimens among them, that it should be understood are the only ones able to be played as a character in the game.

Prime Attributes:
Dexterity 13+ (5% XP bonus)
Hit Dice: 1d6-1
Armor/Shield Permitted: Any.
Weapons: No Heavy or Two Handed Weapons

Kobolds fight and advance like the Fighting Man class. As such, they cannot advance past the 4th level. They may also take the Thief class up to 6th level (per Salvatore Macri's "Core Rules Thief" (see Knockspell Magazine # 2 or Supplemental Lore for Core Rules) or the Druid class (again, per Macri's Supplemental Lore) up to 4th level, although as Druid their Hit Dice remains 1d6-1.

They save as the Fighting Man class except that they have a +2 versus Poison.

Special Abilities:

Infravision 60’ (they do not suffer -1 penalty when fighting above ground).

All PC/NPC Kobolds have the ability to Find/Remove Traps (see Supplemental Lore, above) up to 4th level.

While not suffering from Charisma penalties, obviously most humans and demi-humans will initially react very badly to the presence of a kobold in a party, especially perhaps any dwarves or gnomes. Over time however a kobold character’s charisma will stand on its own without the prejudice brought about by the greater majority of (evil) kobolds.
Eventually I’ll probably edit this, add some tables, and turn it into a pdf for the heck of it... oh yeah, and properly designate it OGL... :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

VOIP Game Turns Into Remote Desktop Support Session & Misc.

I couldn't resist plunging into a remote support session to troubleshoot a hard drive indexing problem just before our game. Most of the time was spent just in getting the remote desktop sharing to work because of firewall issues. I finally got around that with a combination of Skype and Yuuguu. This kind of thing is fun for me, but I knew it'd eat up some time, so we just rescheduled. Will trade tech support for game materials! :)

In other non-news, I picked up some Game Color inks by Acrylicos Vallejos at one of the four FLGS's in the area. That's still amazing to me, considering how small a city this of the blessings of the large University presence in Eugene. This helps to lessen the pain of the Ems baseball stadium likely being torn down and the team having to share the new on campus stadium with the UO team, but I digress. Anyhow, these Game Color inks are made in Spain, and I like that they're not made in China. Nothing against China per se, but I just feel like somehow there might be some crazy garbage in the ink made there. I also bought some Citadel brushes. I'd almost gotten the brushes from a downtown art store but the prices were too high, and though the Citadels weren't cheap, they weren't too bad in comparison. The primer was just a little too pricey for me at the game store, and they only had gray and white, so I picked up a can of Krylon flat black at True Value. I know next to nothing about mini painting, but thought I'd give it a shot as just another aspect of the hobby to try out. The black seemed like it'd be a lot more forgiving for a beginner. We don't really use minis in the game, but I still can't stop myself from buying a few once in a great while.

Sorry to see Destination Unknown go away, James at the Underdark Gazette put up a nice farewell post. I didn't see Christian's final blog post, but saw the title in my feed and confirmed what the largely self-explanatory "Back to the Zine" was about with an email to him. Thanks again Christian, read ya later on Iridia...

Update: Destination Unknown is back!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tavern Graffiti: The Bard Limerick

There once was a bard they called Hendricks
Who'd play some totally sweet lyre licks
Then he'd set it on fire
In the hope to acquire
Some hot chainmail bikini clad chicks.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Speaking of Nostalgia...

This little number from 1982 goes out to James Maliszewski and Christian of Grognardia & Destination Unknown, respectively.

OSRIC Session Journal: Pork Tenderloin

(I’m a player in this campaign, not the DM. Why do I refer to it as the OSRIC game, instead of just AD&D or 1e AD&D? Well, the DM is using OSRIC and no other books AFAIK. I also just like to help publicize the existence of OSRIC. Besides being a great resource, I hope it helps preserve the game as our books from the ‘70s and ‘80s continue to molder away...)
We climbed the tower with the rope we’d left dangling from the previous session, but there was some concern for the horses, tied up not far from the base of the tower.

Ouze (the cleric) and Dennis Slyfoot (the gnome illusionist) decided to return and camp near the horses, while the others sheltered in an empty room in the tower after spiking the door shut. It was a good thing the two had returned, because during Ouze’s watch, he awakened Dennis having heard “snorfling” noises. Dennis sighted a large boar by virtue of his infravision, and instructed Ouze to light a torch in order to perhaps dissuade the beast or be better able to spot it should it attack. The light must have offended it somehow, because it charged.

At this point Dennis Slyfoot cast Phantasmal Force. With it, he created the illusion of the rabid or diseased bear the party had earlier encountered and slain, fixating the illusion to always be directly between the boar and the horses and themselves. Dennis proved his worth, his illusion grievously wounded the boar, which was eventually slain by the cleric’s hammer. The two of them were very proud of themselves, and looked forward to sharing with the rest of the party the story as well as the coming breakfast of fresh uncured bacon! In addition, they were able to replenish their rations (running very low) after slicing up the beast and bagging the meat in its own hide. Ouze had magic to purify the meat once it went rotten, and so the party’s store of rations went up considerably. I was relieved at this and also thought the meat might come in handy with an enemy as bait or something to slow it down in retreat, but also a bit worried that the stench of it might actually attract attention. Ouze will be busy keeping it stank free.

The party was also able to continue up the tower, entering a room which freaked out several members. It would seem that the room directly above produced sounds of scales gliding over one another in some serpentine fashion, or perhaps of spiders moving about. They weren’t sure what it was, and their imaginations got the better of them, esp. Vadco who had to be calmed down by Gladric more than once. They also discovered an armory. A usable set of chain mail was found, upgrading Vadco’s armor. Vadco also found a slightly rusty long sword here, an improvement from the self-made spear he’d been carrying. Continuing down a hall and then up another stairwell, they found the splayed body of a gnome apparently attempting escape by fleeing downwards. His face, twisted in fear and pain, seemed to indicate the cause of his death as poison - there were no large wounds on the body, but a spot on the back of one of the legs seemed much more necrotic. The corpse was searched and stripped, and a possibly magical dagger was gleaned (Dennis nearly came to blows with Demurarg for this item, ultimately using the claim of gnome kinship at which she acquiesced). His armor was removed for possible future trade or sale by Anrid, though this seems a bit silly now.

This was the first time in a long time that I’ve really felt in the groove of playing, with all the expected trappings of a good solid dungeon crawl. Good times.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dordogne Campaign: The Great Druid of Marqueyssac

The Gardens of Marqueyssac are situated on a plateau just North of the the Dordogne river which forms the border between the Ogledd barony and the Ock lands. The location offers significant strategic and tactical advantages since it allows full view of both sides of the river valley. Yet no keep or bastide is found there - only a small disused chateau, a few stone buildings, and ruins.

This is the place where the Great Druid abides. He claims dominion over the entire butte where The Gardens are found. Though sometimes mocked under breath as "Oak Lover" or “Le Amant de Chênes” by the Ogledds and Ocks, he is also feared and respected. He seems to take no side in the ongoing dispute which periodically rages across the river and throughout the valley. Even still, he is sometimes sought for advice for advantage in the continuous warfare below, or for other purposes. Typically, his power and wisdom surpass the understanding of those who seek it.

Those endeavoring to meet him are frequently killed by the wild creatures that are especially protective of the territory they share with the Druid. Others are simply never heard from again. Those that do return from Marqueyssac are usually torn in their interpretation of the Druid’s words or have even gone mad. It’s said that once a century or so (the High Druid seems to outlive everyone), true wisdom and peace is achieved for a time with his aid. Some even say that one day, lasting harmony will be reached, The Druid somehow uniting the two kingdoms. Others wish for his death, saying that his very existence creates a false hope among the people. Among these are jealous priests of various faiths in the area, and in particular, the Priests of the Magic-Eating God whose numbers are increasing from the southeast.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bestiaries of Yore, or Something Like Them in the Late 1970's

Who doesn’t love bestiaries? My own fascination with them began with the the first edition Monster Manual (1977), which might not fit the definition of one in a technical sense, but close enough. School was all about structure, grammar, math... Here in the MM there was something similar but fun, with very practical application - studying and memorizing the descriptions and abilities of the creatures could well save your life, in a manner of speaking. The mildly titillating artistic depictions of certain entries were a bonus, and I suspect their inclusion made my fellow players and I feel just a little more grown up.

There were similar books I enjoyed near the same time period. They weren’t as comprehensive, and they weren’t game material - but they stoked the same youthful imagination and wonder for things fantastical, and did so while encouraging suspension of disbelief. A few of these stood out in my memory enough for me to want to recently reacquire them.

Rien Poortvliet and Wil Huygen illustrated and wrote a series of books about gnomes that I’m sure just about everyone reading this will be familiar with... Although many of my peers despise both gnomes and hobbits, there’s no doubt that they’ve managed to penetrate the popular culture more thoroughly than their cousins the dwarfs. These books were very popular when I was a kid, flying off the bookstore shelves every Christmas as gifts for adults and kids alike. I only had the first, but I gladly admit to liking it - the artwork was great and the descriptions of the dwellings and lifestyle of gnomes were good fun. There was brief mention in these pages of elves, goblins, trolls, and others. The Monster Manual was always the authoritative work for me, so when I read in Gnomes that dwarfs could easily be distinguished from them based on the fact that dwarfs had no beards, it became clear that Huygen had not done his homework.

Giants (by Julek Heller, Carolyn Scrace, Juan Wijngaard, and David Larken 1979) seems inspired by the success of the Gnomes books. Great illustrations in this one, and it was more to my liking since it was more monsterly. There was of course another book in this vein, called “Faeries”, put together again by David Larkin. I knew it was decent, having flipped through its pages in the mall, but neither myself nor my friends ever owned a copy (AFAIK or that anyone will admit).

I loved reading my dad’s subscription to the digest sized Isaac Asimov’s magazine and his old copies of Heinlein, Clarke, and Frank Herbert books. One Christmas morning he gave me Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials (by Wayne D. Barlowe, Ian Summers, and Beth Meacham 1979). We also played GDW’s Traveller and this seemed a worthy addition to my other books, but it became apparent that I had a lot of reading to do if I wanted to have any real sense of the aliens depicted and described in this book. Thirty years later and I’m still not even close. The artwork is very good. Here’s a picture that accompanies the entry for Jack Vance’s “Dirdir”, from the third book in the Planet of Adventure series:
A couple of years ago I picked up Thomas Keightley’s The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves, and Other Little People originally published in 1880. It was reprinted in 1978 (and again, later I believe). It’s very academic but I highly recommend it if the subject interests you. You might also want to check out the online medieval bestiary at - especially with the Cooliris extension in Firefox...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eight Year Old Nephew Interview Review of 1980s D&D Cartoon Series

So we finally made it through the entire series on 3 DVDs and FWIW, I asked Josiah if he wouldn't mind answering a few questions about it. He's a huge fan of special effects, Zelda, and Transformers so I was a little surprised about how much he liked it. Krull, for example, he found a little boring.

Did you like the series?
On a scale of 1-10, 1 being junk and 10 being perfect, what would you rate it?
10, Perfect.
Who was your favorite character?
Did you like the Dungeon Master character?
Yes. I really liked the Shadow Demon character. And I like Venger too.
Who was your least favorite character?
The cavalier. Eric.
What was the best magic item?
(Hank's) Bow and Arrow.
What was your favorite episode?
15. (?)
Did you like how the series ended?
Even though they never got to go home?
Yes, they might come out with a new series now. It was a good ending.
Is there anything else about the show you want to say?
No, that's all.

He's a (little) man of few words. Maybe I could have thought of some better questions but it was off the top of my head. What a lot of folks might not know is that though the characters never went home in the series, there is a script for a never produced episode where they're genuinely given the ability to at last go home, courtesy of Michael Reaves. Reaves was the author of seven episodes (out of 27 total). He's made this script available on his website... you can read it here: Requiem (PDF). I'm looking forward to sharing it with Josiah.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wife: I'll Play D&D, But Only in the South of France

My wife announced yesterday that she would be willing to play D&D if the setting was in the Dordogne. She said that part of her reluctance in playing has been in visualizing the setting, and since she’s seen numerous castles and villages there and has a feel for the area, she can see playing there. Of course this was quite a pleasant surprise since she’s hasn't played for a long time after her one short experience last year. “Given that it’s an actual location, would you want it to be a more realistic setting with only humans? You know, no dwarfs, elves, that sort of thing?” No, she wanted the “full” D&D experience, just played in that locale. Far out!

I have to wonder if the map from the region I’d recently scanned and left out on my desk might have provoked some nostalgia for the place, so hopefully the game can be more than just that for her. I definitely have my work cut out for me if I’m to sculpt a whole new campaign setting. Fortunately there’s a ton of inspiration - the Dordogne is steeped in history and architecture well suited to the game. We're both most familiar with the Périgord Noir so I see it as being the primary focus.

Years ago, the first time I went there, I did a lot of hitchhiking and walking around the the area by myself...I managed to find a little work helping repair some of the stone houses (hundreds of years old). I was 27 and really overwhelmed with the beauty of the area and the unbelievable food and wine. There are plenty of caves there too, which had always been an interest of mine. Years later, after marrying, I was able to show my wife the place - and she was entranced. It’s great that we might be able to go there again, in a sense, via the game... who knows, maybe we’ll visit one day. It'd be interesting to sort of read our own game history in the place names. I'm trying to keep my enthusiasm in check though, as she can always change her mind!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tavern Graffiti: The One Eyed Pirate Limerick

A one eyed pirate was heard to brag
He'd wed a barnacled, green sea hag -
"I know what you're thinking,"
He said, and then winking,
"But even Cyclops here needs a shag."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

S&W Session Journal: Introducing Gulch, Problem Solver

Wagstaff, Agnal, and Olav found themselves back at the tavern where they’ve taken up semi-permanent residency. The merchants who transported them back to town at the end of the last session took pity on Agnal and very modestly clothed him and paid for his room and board (common room and gruel) for a week. They also were not very discriminating in who they told about their roadside encounter with him. Though for a short while there was some sympathy for him in town, time both heals and makes a mockery of all things - in this case, poor Agnal, who is often surreptitiously pointed at and whispered about... Not all of which goes unseen by Agnal. He’s become withdrawn and even quieter, while hate and desire for revenge grows within him.

Olav the dwarf had planned to return home to his clan, tail between his legs, a failure in his own eyes to make something better of himself than just another mountain laborer. He spends his time drinking more than he should, waiting for a boat scheduled to arrive in another week that will carry him further upriver and closer to home.

Wagstaff, near penniless now is ready for anything, though he has not yet resorted to his training as a thief.

It was here in the tavern that an average looking man in a cloak sidled over to Agnal and asked if he was willing to entertain a business proposition - Agnal said sit anywhere you like, as he had literally nothing to lose. Gulch introduced himself, and in many words made it known to Agnal that he could see to it that the loud mouthed merchants who’d made a fool of him in town would get their permanent comeuppance, for a fee of course.

Agnal made it clear that he was broke, at which point Gulch introduced himself to the rest of the party and suggested several courses of action by which they might all profit together. He motioned over his plate mail clad friend named Frayse, and made mention of both a deserted temple across the river that might be worth exploring for treasure overlooked by likely goblin looters. He also mentioned the rat exterminating job he’d seen on a job board. Once introductions had all been made he leaned in close to Wagstaff and mentioned that he might be interested in meeting a guildmaster Gulch knew in nearby Haldane. When Wagstaff suggested they go there now as there might be more work there, Gulch said he was on a mission for his own guildmaster. He had to procure funds for a building project and wasn’t to come back without a large sum of money. Thus, two new (replacement) PCs were introduced as party members.

Wagstaff and the others weren’t aware that the rat job was still posted, even though they’d quit without completing it. The next morning they went back to the mill and asked for another chance after recruiting three men who had failed to be accepted for work with the local militia. They returned to the cellar and made short work of the nasties there, Wagstaff landing a direct hit on some giant centipedes with burning oil. They picked up a small reward which they split evenly amongst themselves. Agnal should be able to afford some new armor which might considerably lift his spirits.

It was a rather business-like session - I wasn’t feeling very inspired as I was a little sick. At least the party has been built back up again and there are some new hooks out there. I awarded Agnal a huge 500xp from the session before this - the one where he begged that his life be spared by the goblins. Although he didn’t really do anything in the traditional way XP is awarded, I thought that this was truly one of his life’s wake up call moments. Honestly, I’ve come to enjoy the character and see a lot of rich role playing in his future. I want to promote this as well as maybe even give him a boost and insure his survival a little more. Second level is still a long way off for almost everyone, and the sooner he can get his hands on a cure light wounds spell (no 1st level spells for clerics in our game) the better off everyone will be. This is really the first time I’ve ever awarded experience in this manner, in a sense, for failing. I don’t see it happening again soon, but I’m comfortable with it. I do understand and agree with the hesitation and caution folks have when using the rules governing experience more as guidelines. It's been a long while, but I remember having seen it get out of hand in other people’s campaigns.

Update: I'm going to try out M. Battleaxe's recent ideas about awarding hit points for simple dungeon exploration itself, at least for low level characters. Barad had some interesting things to say about experience point awarding recently as well. I dunno, some folks might see that 500xp award as outrageous, but for purposes of comparison, I know of people who award 2HD for their first level players at outset, or that don't even play with 1st level. Even with the award, with his other experience already gained, he still is only about half way to 2nd level. Haha, wow, look at my guilt and defensiveness.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Marqueyssac - Beautiful Large Map with Surrounding Area

I was going through my file cabinet looking for some tax stuff when I thumbed past a folder with some mementos from a trip to France - in it was a brochure and map for the Gardens at Marqueyssac. I think the map is really nice, complete with letters indicating points of interest... possibly suitable for adapting to our Swords and Wizardry game. I scanned it a few times and stitched it back together as a panorama. If you can use it or are just curious, check it out here (10mb download).

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Freecity of Haldane by Christian Walker

I was surprised and delighted to receive Christian’s “Freecity of Haldane, A Supplement for Labyrinth Lord” in the mail today. A twenty page, digest sized urban setting resource, Halbane “can be used as a base of operations for adventurers. Its inns, temples and other services could be very useful between expeditions into the nearby swamps or mountains. The city’s politics and other dangers could also provide excitement.”

Although he’d posted a brief note that he’d intended to ship this out to current members of the Lincoln Middle School D&D Club, I confess to having forgotten about this until receiving it today. Herein is a reprint of material previously appearing in Christian’s Iridia Zone zine. Sections include: Introduction, Haldane’s Wards (including the Trades Ward, Market Square, Riverwalk, The Warrens, Compass Street, and the North Gate, among other sites of interest), as well as a section on Factions and Societies, and a write up of Aurumvorax, the gold dragon and current elected ruler of the Freecity of Haldane.

There’s nothing about this production that doesn’t endear me to it - starting with the low key way in which Christian released it, crystallizing in his Forward wherein he succinctly states “Somewhere along the way, things got too damn complicated”, and finally in the details illustrated in the simple and utilitarian map and descriptions of the towns inhabitants and ruler. If you’re looking for quirks or eccentric personalities to introduce to your campaign, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a small city-state you can easily introduce to your campaign that’s taken the work out of faction creation and introduces some very quickly usable NPCs and environs, this will fill the bill nicely. Easily adaptable to OD&D/S&W or OSRIC/1E, DM’s strapped for time will find this a welcome resource.

The author has stated that this will become available also as a PDF, having been limited to a first run of a couple dozen or so copies. Personally, I hope Christian makes a few bucks off of it and buys a Maui Wowee cocktail or two with the proceeds, before or after a surf. Cheers!