Archive for November, 2012

Pathfinder Online Kickstarter

November 28, 2012

You may recall earlier this year Paizo/Goblinworks did a Kickstarter for the Pathfinder Online Technology Demo, which well exceeded its target numbers.  Well, I guess the tech demo was a success and now they’ve started a Kickstarter to fund the actual MMO production:

Pathfinder Online Kickstarter

One day in and it’s already at $125K, so that’s an auspicious start.

With a $35 pledge you’ll get a digital copy of the game when it comes out, a month of play time and some other goodies.  At $100 you get all that, plus early access to the beta in 2014 (and some other junk).

Just when I think I’m done with MMOs for good, they drag me back in!  Honestly, if they can really pull off everything they say they want to do, it sounds like it would be a pretty cool game.  There aren’t very many sandbox MMOs out there anymore.

So, if you’re a fan of MMOs and/or Pathfinder, you may want to check it out.  Cheers.

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One Year Anniversary

November 27, 2012

The one-year anniversary of this blog almost slipped by unnoticed.  My how time flies when you’re busy doing, er, stuff.  I’m not posting as much as I used to, but I’m still plugging away at it, a bit at a time, and plan to continute doing so.  Thanks to my readers (all dozen or so of you 😉 ) for sticking with me this far.  Cheers.

Caves of Chaos, Pt. 5

November 24, 2012

Our session begins with the magic-user and elves hooking up with the Advisor to swap spells.  The magic-user, now 3rd level, picks up the Web spell.  The elves picked up a couple of missing 1st-level spells.  The thief was nowhere to be found, so the party heads out.  Bruce the Ogre was still recovering from the orc beating he took a couple of sessions ago, as well.

Returning to the Caves, the party decides to finish clearing out the owlbear cave, where the previous session ended.  This time going right they come upon a shallow pool of clear water with a gem-encrusted cup lying on the bottom.  The male elf quickly doffs his armor and ties a rope around his waist so he can go dunking for treasure.  But before diving into the pool, he notices some movement along the ceiling of the cave.  No one else in the party sees anything…just before a grey ooze drops on the magic-user’s arm.  Another drops into the pool (missing the elf by a wide margin).

Having prepared by bringing an abudnance of cheap, heavy sticks and branches with them, the party sets about beating the crap out of the oozes.  The dwarf gets a good swing in on the ooze covering the magic-user’s arm…breaking said arm in the process.  In the chaos, another ooze drops down right next to the male elf, narrowly missing him.  After that, the party makes quick work of the oozes, beating them with crude clubs.  The MU binds his wounds, and sets his arm while the elf retrieves the bejeweled cup (worth quite a bit of gold, actually).  They decide to return to the Keep so the magic-user can heal his arm.

At the Keep the magic-user complains bitterly about making a paltry 50 gp offering to the Curate for the benefit of a Cure Light Wounds spell to heal his arm, until he realizes it’ll take weeks for the arm to heal naturally (mind you, the party has looted thousands of gp in treasure by now).  Rested and recuperated, the party heads back out again the next day.

This time they pick a cave just above the owl-bear lair.  Passing into the cave, the two elves immediately become confused and disoriented, though the MU and dwarf are unaffected.   Off to their right they hear the hooting and screeching of many agitated birds, so they opt to go left instead.  They quickly navigate their way to a large cavern filled with piles of arranged bones, obviously the lair of something big and nasty.  Shuttering their lantern, the dwarf and elves spot a towering minotaur with their infravision, which immediately bellows a challenge and charges.  The dwarf roars in response and charges in to meet the minotaur.  A heroic fight ensues, wherein the dwarf gets his butt kicked and he falls back.

At this point the party is in fairly dire straights.  Their front-line fighter is nearly dead, and the two elves are disoriented and probably won’t be able to find their way out.  The magic-user could be easily killed in a single volley of attacks from the minotaur, and so is staying far back.  In desperation the dwarf starts drinking random, unidentified potions, hoping that one of them will heal him.  The first is actually poison (fortunately he made his save); the second is a potion of invisibility!

Unsure of whether to fight or flee, the magic-user casts phantasmal force, creating an illusion of four ogres charging in to attack the minotaur.  This distracts the minotaur for a couple of rounds, giving the party time to reorganize.  The invisible dwarf sneaks around the minotaur and starts pouring flasks of oil all over the place, hoping to create a conflagration that will trap and consume the minotaur, followed by each elf, and the magic-user, all casting charm person on the minotaur, and all failing (I was uncertain whether charm person should work on a minotaur, but decided to let them try it…turns out the minotaur made all its saving throws anyways).

At this point the party has fired most of its big guns.  The minotaur is wounded, but hardly out of the fight.  The male elf slings arrow after arrow at the beast; the magic-user fires off a magic missile but then is left with firing his crossbow; the dwarf is still pouring oil all over the place, and the female elf starts throwing flasks of oil directly at the minotaur, followed by lit torches (much to the consternation of the dwarf).  Eventually the minotaur is set on fire, weakening it severely, and the party is able to bring the mighty beast down.  One of the elves finds a secret stash at the back of the cave, filled with considerable loots (including plate mail +1, a spear +1 and a staff of healing, which they currently cannot use).

Again, they return to the Keep to consolidate their gains and heal their wounds.  The next day, they return to the minotaur’s labyrinth, this time experiencing no disorienting magic when they enter.  They quickly dispatch some fire beetles and about a dozen stirges (which surprised me; stirges are usually nasty, nasty monsters for 1 HD; but once again, sleep proves its utility).  They also discovered that the corpse of the minotaur was missing, a trail of blood and gore leading up to the highest cave.  This isn’t the first time they’ve noticed that corpses and bodies have gone missing around the Caves… (Muhahahahaha!).

At first the party seemed ready to follow the trail straight in to the highest, furthest back (and therefore, most dangerous) cave, but opted instead to check out the only other remaining cave (visible to them, anyways).  They find a small lair of gnolls, most of them easily dispatched.  Moving to the back of the gnoll lair, they force their way into the chief’s room.  Just as combat was about to start, the magic-user cast charm person on the chief, gaining a new BFF.  Even though the chief tells the gnolls that the party members are friends, his two bodyguards are deeply suspicious of the party and stay on their guard.

This time it seems the party isn’t much interested in having a powerful monster ally, so they concoct a crazy story about gnoll usurpers trying to kill the chief.  They’re hoping the chief will send his guards to investigate so they can get the chief alone and massacre him.  The chief, instead, sends his female mates to investigate.  After they leave, the party barricades the door, telling the chief it’s for his protection.  This, of course, only makes the guards even more suspicious of the party.  Once the door is barricaded, the party drops pretenses and attacks the chief’s bodyguards.  They attempt to pass it off as protecting the chief from ‘assassins’, but what they don’t know that the ‘bodyguards’ are in fact the chief’s sons; thus they break the chief’s charm and the fight is on!

The gnoll chief turns his full wrath on the magic-user that charmed him, nearly killing the spellcaster with a single attack.  The male elf steps in, pushing the magic-user back out of the way.  A general melee breaks out, with bodyguards, chief and party exchanging wild blows.  In a completely uncharacteristic act, the female elf attacks the chief (wielding the magic spear taken from the minotaur), trying to draw the chief off the magic-user and other elf (normally this player stays in the back, attacking from range, playing it as safe as possible).  A couple of vicious blows later, the female elf lays dead (and I forgot to roll on the 50 Ways to Die chart 😦 ).  After that the party quickly finishes the chief and his guards.  The gnoll females, hearing the commotion through the barricaded door, flee for their lives.  They party finds some gold, but no magic.

We called it a night after that.  Upon their return to the Keep the party meets a new cleric, eager to join them for adventure and glory (and probably an early grave, too).

There are only two unexplored caves remaining, though one of them is hidden and unlikely to be discovered by the party.  That just leaves the biggest, baddest cave of all.  And they’ll soon discover just what’s been happening to all those disappearing corpses. 😉

Thoughts on a Simple Post-Apocalyptic Campaign

November 19, 2012

Use the following:

  • Swords & Wizardry Whitebox for the base rules (primarily for combat)
  • Instead of using classes, just assume everyone is a mutant; have players roll up stats and then roll up 4 random mutations for their characters
  • Gamma World had levels, but they were pretty meaningless; perhaps do away with levels and just give all characters Constitution + (some other stat – maybe Wisdom) hit points; all combat bonuses are based strictly on the character’s stat modifiers; for saving throws, roll 1d20 (+ applicable modifiers) equal to or greater than 10
  • Use the Metamorphica to determine mutations (at 650 mutations there’s a lot of mutational goodness in that supplement)
  • A source to determine random junk, either the Junkulator or my Ultimate Grand Unified Junk Table (analog edition); assume that new characters start with 10 pieces of randomly generated junk

The nice thing about using Swords & Wizardry Whitebox is that A) it’s rules light and simple to play and B) everything does 1d6 damage, so you don’t have to spend a lot of prep time trying to decide how much damage a mutant claw does vs. mutant acid spit vs. mutant quills.  It’s simple:  they all do 1d6 damage.

So, the kicker in all this is a system to sort of jury rig all that junk loot the PCs find into more effective items, particularly more effective weapons and armor.  I call the system Junk Rigging, for lack of a more clever or imaginative name.

The heart of junk rigging is Item Complexity.  A rigged item’s complexity is equal to the number of different pieces of junk that were combined to make that item.  To help keep things somewhat managable, the maximum item complexity a character can use is 3, plus their Intelligence modifier (either +1, 0 or -1), for a range of 2 to 4.  Maybe some mutations or other special abilities can be incorporated to increase maximum complexity at a later time.

It’s important to remember that junk rigging isn’t real science or real engineering.  It’s gonzo-post-apocalypse engineering and the idea is for players to come up with wacky stuff made out of everyday junk they find in the atomic ruins.  The only rules, aside from the following guidelines, is that whatever item a player junk rigs together should be comprised of bits of junk that plausibly somewhat relate to the item being made.  For example, if you want to make a junk rigged melee weapon, you should use stuff that’s hard and/or sharp.  Making a club out of styrofoam cups isn’t going to do any damage.

However, nothing stops players from trying to make more gonzo stuff, like converting a laser pointer to emit a lethal beam by hooking it up to a car battery and adding some circuits and stuff to it.  It just has to be somewhat plausible.

Junk Rigged Weapons

Once again, this is where S&W Whitebox comes in handy.  Every junk-rigged weapon does a base of 1d6 damage.  However, weapons also have a bonus, called Weapon Class, equal to the weapon’s complexity minus 1 (C-1).  Weapon Class is added to both attack rolls and damage rolls (kind of like a magical enhancement bonus for a +1 weapon, for example).

The downside is, the more junk you cobble together to make a weapon, the more fragile and likely it is to fail when you use it.  If the d20 attack roll is equal to, or less than, the weapon’s complexity, it breaks and has to be repaired or remade.

The maximum range for a junk rigged weapon is 60 feet.

Armor

Because armor can be worn in lots of little pieces all over the body it isn’t subject to the complexity rules.  Each piece of junk loot, either individually or combined with other junk, grants a +1 bonus to Armor Class (AC).  However, the more crap you strap to your body, the more you slow down, as follows:

  • No armor = 120 feet/round
  • Up to +2 AC (equivalent to leather) = 90 feet/round
  • Up to +4 AC (equivalent to chainmail) = 60 feet/round
  • Up to +6 AC (equivalent to plate) = 30 feet/round

Characters can also employ hand-shields (such as the post-apoc staple, a STOP sign converted to a shield) for an additional +1 bonus to AC.  Alternatively, you might use the shields will be splintered rule, where shields can absorb a hit but then are destroyed, instead of granting an AC bonus.

If you use critical hit rules, you might also say that any critical hit scored on a PC breaks a piece of junk armor, reducing the character’s AC by 1.

First Aid

Assume that any piece of junk that could concievably be used as a bandage or medicine heals 1d6 + Complexity damage.  Rendering first aid takes one combat round.

Chemicals

Players might want to combine various chemical substances they loot to replicate the effects of magic from S&W (for example, making a sleep gas).  Again, remember this isn’t real chemistry, so it doesn’t really matter what chemical substances they combine.  What matters is the intended effect.

So, to successfully combine the chemicals, roll 1d6 equal to or less than the substance’s complexity (in other words, throwing in more chemicals increases the odds of getting the desired effect).  If a 6 is rolled, something goes horribly wrong with disasterous results for the PC.  It may be fun to use some kind of potion miscibility table to determine the results of a mishap.

Note that chemical compounds will probably need a container, as well.  Dangerous compounds allow a saving throw to negate or mitigate the effects.

Tools

This category covers a lot of territory, so GMs will probably have to improvise a bit.  If players make something simple, like a hammer or a shovel, just assume they now have the appropriate tool.  If they want something more complex, like a lock-picking device, assume that higher complexity increases the probably of success (maybe roll 1d6 equal to or less than complexity to succeed with the tool, or roll 1d20 + Complexity over some DC?).  The flip side, however, is that the more complex the item, the more fragile it is and more likely to break when used.

Naturally, the GM has final say over any junk rigging combination.  Just keep in mind it isn’t real science.  If a combination would be feasible in a pulpy-gonzo-comic book-post-apocalyptic way, let the players roll with it.  However, if they try to combine a stuffed animal with a coffee mug and call it a death laser, feel free to shoot it down.

Ancient Relics

You can also still have relics of the Ancients, vastly superior to any junk-rigged item.  Just give the spells and magic items from S&W a science-fictiony skin.  For example, fly can be reskinned as a jetpack or a gravity harness.  Fireball can be reskinned as a photon grenade.  Lightning Bolt can be reskinned as a plasma rifle.  Just make sure all these relics have a limited number of charges or uses; keep the PCs hungry. 🙂

Caves of Chaos, Pt 4

November 16, 2012

A dwarf, an elf and a magic-user walk into the Caves of Chaos…

…and along the way they’re ambushed by a dozen or so goblins and hob-goblins, the few remaining survivors from the party’s pervious forays into the Caves.  The magic-user takes a little nick from a rusty javelin, but the ambushers are quickly dealt with via sleep spell and throat-slitting.   Unfortunately, little treasure is recovered.

After stopping by to check up on the grievously injured ogre (Bruce), the party continues to systematically explore the caves, front to back, picking the next closest cave (which happens to be the second tribe of orcs).  Entering the cave, they trip a, er, tripwire, dropping a net on the dwarf and a charmed hobgoblin companion from last session.  Hearing the alarm, a group of orcs immediately descend on the party, getting in a couple of blows before the party once again sleeps most of them.  Another orc is charmed by the elf, and the last surviving orc gets a dagger in its back from the magic-user as it runs away.  Recovering from the trap, and then murdering and looting the orcs, the party decides to return to the Keep.  Oh, and it just so happens the elf got just enough XP to make level 2.

They meet up with the cleric and the thief at the Keep and make preparations for the Feast of St. Edwards (patron saint of the Keep, electrum and adventurers) on the following day.  In particular, they decide to sponsor a kaber toss, sword fight and some kind of ill-defined donkey-cart obstacle course around the perimeter of the Keep, in order to prospect good hirelings (which they completely fail to follow-up on later).

The scene shifts to the night of the Feast, and the cleric finds that his bribes, er, donations, have paid off.  The party is seated at the Castellan’s table…well, at the far end of the table, anyways.  The Curate seats the party next to a Priest and acolyte of Law, whispering in the cleric’s ear to keep on eye on them.  Festivities ensue, the dwarf drinks too much, the elf is aloof, the cleric schmoozes, the thief drinks too much and the magic-user finds the opportunity he was looking for to speak with the Advisor about learning more spells.

During the course of the feast the thief notices the acolyte surreptitiously leave the area.  Knowing when to take a DM hint, the thief decides to follow him and quickly discovers the acolyte is up to shenanigans.  The acolyte has recovered a hidden rope and used it to climb down one of the Keep’s wells (on the map it’s actually a fountain, but I declared it to be a fountainous well).  Hiding, the thief soon spies a second acolyte come along, recover the rope and hide it again.  Detecting an opportunity for XP and loot, the thief quickly gathers the party and they go down the well in pursuit of the first acolyte.

While the thief is away, the cleric chats up the Priest, asking him where he came from, where he studied, which temples he’s served in, who ordained him, etc..  The Priest responds with vague answers about academies and temples in far off lands that the cleric’s never heard of before.  After dropping a few words in Law, the cleric realizes the Priest cannot understand him, and so cannot be who he claims to be.

After equipping themselves, the party descends the well into a vast cavern containing about a foot of water, which extends to the edge of the bluff the Keep is situated on.  The exposed cavern is caged in by decayed iron bars and an open gate.  The dwarf doesn’t even need to make a roll to know this makes no sense what-so-ever, but the DM valiantly half-asses his way through the ad-libbed encounter anyways.

Looking through the open gate, they find a narrow switch back leading to a somewhat less narrow crevice in the cliff face.  Beyond the crevice is a small chamber, containing the acolyte, a couple of zombie guards and a small table with all kinds of incriminating documents.  The party quickly subdues the acolyte, re-kill the zombies and collects the documents.  They find the documents are written in a strange language (Chaos), but the thief “guesses” they contain plans of the Keep’s defenses as well as conspiratorial correspondence with unknown third parties.  During all this the dwarf discovers a secret door at the back of the small cave.

Utterly forgetting about the subdued and bound acolyte, the party explores the secret door, following a twisting and winding passage for about an hour, whereupon they realize the passage isn’t going to lead them to XP or loot anytime soon, so they head back to alert the Curate to what they’ve discovered.  Back in the cavern, the acolyte is missing, though they soon ‘find’ him at the bottom of the cliff, in a state of dead.  Did the acolyte jump?  Did he fall?  Or maybe he was thrown from the cliff?  Who knows?

Waking the Curate, the party shows him the incriminating documents.  The Curate can’t read them either, but the thief once again helpfully suggests they’re most likely plans to attack the Keep.  Enraged, the Curate girds for battle.  Together with the party they swoop in upon the Priest’s apartments, finding only the second acolyte (again, quickly subdued via a sleep spell and escorted to the Chapel for “torture-ogation”).  From his conversation with the cleric, the Priest guessed the gig was up and split the Keep while the party was exploring the long passage.  Breaking up a dangerous plot, the PCs are now officially heroes to the Keep and in the good graces of the Castellan.

New day, new opportunities for murder and wealth accumulation.  The party heads back to the Caves, again stopping by to check in on Bruce.  The cleric declines to heal the ogre, figuring they might need the spells in the Caves.  So, Bruce gets another day off.  Next, they charge off to the second orc lair, anticipating easy XP and loots, only to find it abandoned.  Realizing they stood no chance against the blood-crazed adventurers, the orcs split the Caves (taking all their treasure with them…oops).

Feeling ballsy, they party heads to the back of the ravine, shortly finding a cave hidden under some trees and brush.  The cavern is littered with bones, animal corpses and leaves.  However, they do find a few coins in all the debris.  Moving deeper into the cavern, they determine that a large number of rats are watching them from just beyond the range of their torches.  Trying to decide what to do, they soon hear something much larger than a rat approaching from the back of the cavern.  To their horror a monstrous owl-bear attacks!

A ferocious battle ensues.  Most of the party’s attacks are turned by the monster’s thick hide, but slowly and surely they whittle it down.  However, the cleric is slain by a vicious claw swipe, crushing his head down into his body cavity (love that 50 Ways to Die chart).  Outraged by the sudden death of their beloved cleric the party lashes out, hacking down the unnatural beast in a furious assault (everyone hit that round doing more than enough damage to kill it).  Immediately gutting the monster, the party finds no treasure in its insides, though they do find a scroll of protection from undead in its lair.  The dwarf and elf decide to skin the beast to make some owlbear cloaks, much to the disgust of the thief.

While chiding the dwarf and elf for their grisly ways, a grey, amorphous blob drops from the ceiling squarely on the thief’s head.  With the thief writhing in acid-induced agony, the dwarf wraps the skinned owlbear hide over the blob and scrapes it off the thief’s head, though not before the thief collapses into unconsciousness.  Finding the grey blob unaffected by fire, the party collects their fallen comrades and heads back to the Keep for the night.  On the way they’re joined by some random passing elf for no discernible reason.

By the end of the session the horribly scarred thief was fourth level and the magic-user hit third level (2nd level spells, yay!).  They found very little treasure this time, but picked up a good deal of XP from monsters (even after halving the 1 HD XP, though now I’ll have to divide XP for 2 HD monsters as well).  And one death, the 3rd level cleric, replaced by an elf.  That means more bodies could be piling up in future sessions.

The players were definitely gaming the return-to-the-Keep-and-level-up mechanic I’d been using previously.  I may have to switch to awarding XP at the end of the session instead (which, technically, is what you’re supposed to do).  They also completely forgot about their charmed hobgoblin and orc after the session’s initial foray into the Caves (actually, I’d forgotten about them, too, but then it’s not my job to remember something like that 😉 ).

On a personal note, I need to do a better job with the ad-libbing.  As soon as I described the cavern under the Keep’s fountainous well I realized it made no sense at all, but by then I couldn’t take it back (the players caught it immediately, too).  I managed to half-ass my way through that part of the encounter, but it’s something I need watch out for in the future.

I guesstimate that the party will probably finish clearing the Caves in about two more sessions, at the rate they’re going.  I’ll have to dig up some other modules if they want to continue playing.  I think I’ll stick with classic B/X and 1E AD&D modules, but maybe I can use some One Page Dungeons for quickie encounters.

Transolar Galactica

November 13, 2012


This is a web series that needs more attention.  Here’s episode 1; if you like what you see you can find the other nine epsisodes at YouTube.  Cheers.

Skyfall

November 11, 2012

Just saw the latest installment in the Bond franchise, Skyfall, and let me tell you it’s a great movie.  The latest Daniel Craig iteration returns to part of what made Casino Royale such a great movie, revealing a bit more about Bond’s (and M’s) past and showing more of his human side, as well.  Once again, pretty light on the spy gadgets.  Plenty of nods to the earlier movies, too.  A vast improvement over Quantum of Solace, in my opinion.

So, if you like Bond movies, or just actiony movies in general, go see it.

Caves of Chaos, Pt 3

November 9, 2012

The party started out a little short-handed, with only four members (dwarf, cleric and magic-user, plus Bruce the door-bashing ogre).  Despite their meager numbers they decided to plunge into the caves.  After picking up Bruce, asleep in his lair, their first stop was the goblin caves, hoping to finally clear out that portion of the network, and get a little payback on the buggers after being showered with javelins a couple days earlier.  They quickly come upon the goblin common room and stop for a moment to listen in on the goblin’s conversation (mostly talking about the crazy adventurers coming into the caves and killing everyone).  However, the goblins, dim as they are, still notice the party’s lantern light and rush to attack.  The party had enough time to form a scrimmage line with the platemail clad dwarf and cleric in the front, the MU in the middle and Bruce bringing up the rear again.  The dwarf downs one of the goblins, everyone else whiffs, and then Bruce rumbles in and takes a mighty swing.  He still misses, but between the quick death of one of their companions, and the massive ogre (and a failed morale check), the remaining goblins break and run.

The party wisely opts to not pursue the goblins deeper into the cave, fearing they may be led into an ambush.  Instead, they explored a side passage leading to the goblin chief’s room.  The chief was consulting with some of the surviving hob-goblins from the previous session, when the cleric opened the door and poked his head in.  Naturally, it comes to blows.  The MU casts sleep, putting down everyone but the chief, who quickly succumbs to repeated mace bashing and axe cutting.  They loot a nice tapestry, another mysterious potion and some spare change for drinks when they get back to the Keep.

Next they explored the kobold lair, and somehow managed to not trigger the concealed pit trap at the entrance (not even the ogre).  A half-dozen kobolds immediately leapt out of an alcove to attack, but the party made quick work of them.  Ignoring a side passage, the party moved on until they entered the kobold common area, filled to the brim with 40 kobolds (most were actually non-combatant females and young, but the party didn’t know that).  Thinking quickly, the dwarf called out “Parley!” in kobold.  A deal was struck wherein the party would, er, “retire” the current kobold chief and facilitate a little kobold regime change.  So they doubled back to the side passage they’d passed earlier and headed towards the chief’s room.  By this point one of the other player’s arrived, and so the thief rejoined the party.

Passing a locked door they naturally break it open (without using the ogre this time) and find the room beyond severely wanting in loot.  Moving on, they soon come under arrow fire from beyond the range of their lantern.  Unable to see their attackers, they back down the passageway to reorganize.  Then the cleric has the brilliant idea of using the door they just broke open as a siege shield.  Prying it off its hinges and carrying it ‘landscape’ style, they marched down the hallway, well protected from kobold arrows.  With a final charge, they pinned three kobold archers against the cavern wall and slaughtered the hapless buggers.  The ensuing fight with the chief was fairly quick, profiting the party a ridiculously large gold chain, which looked like it almost matched the garish gem-encrusted WWE belt they looted the week before.

Returning to the Keep to consolidate their gains, the magic-user hears that the Castellan’s clerk may be a mage and seeks admittance to inner keep, hoping to learn some new spells.  Of course, the sergeant-of-arms isn’t going to let just any scruffy-looking adventurer into the keep, and politely tells him to get lost.  Undaunted, the cleric speaks with the Curate at the Chapel of Law.  It is established that four days hence the Keep will be celebrating the eponymous Feast of St. Edwards.  The cleric offers to make a sizable donation towards the festivities in exchange for the Curate greasing the wheels and getting the adventurers a meeting with the Castellan, or at least his clerk.  The party also commissions a wooden sculpture of themselves, in epic poses, as a bit of self-promotion for the celebration.

Having a few days to kill, the party returns to finish clearing out the orc lair.  Approaching the cave, the dwarf notices an orc sentry at the entrance, just starting to run inside.  The dwarf blindly throws his axe into the cave, hitting the unfortunate orc squarely in the back (natural 20 baby).  Attempts to retrieve the axe are thwarted by crossbow fire from the cave’s dark interior.  Recall that the entrance ends in a T intersection with a wall adorned with severed heads in various stages of decay.  But there’s also a window in the wall through which the orcs normally keep watch.  This time an orc was using it as an arrow slit to fire upon anyone entering the cave.

The party’s solution is a liberal, even gratuitous, application of oil flasks.  They got some bad rolls, but eventually managed to hit the back wall, and then tossed in a torch.  Crude, but ultimately effective.  After their Apocalypse Now re-enactment, they entered the cave and headed to the common room.  But the orcs were waiting for them.  They’d flipped over a couple of tables and were using them as cover to fire crossbows at the party.  When the party closed with the archers, the jaws of the trap swung shut!  The orc chief and his bodyguards came down one sloping passage, and the last few remaining orcs raced in from yet another direction, hitting the party from three sides.

This is the closest the party had come to a TPK yet.  Both the cleric and the dwarf were on the verge of death.  The ogre was finally put into serious battle and almost killed (I came soooo close to getting rid of that damned ogre).  But a fortuitous use of sleep put down most of the orcs (but fortunately for the party, not the ogre as well) and a couple of well-placed shots by the thief killed off the chief’s bodyguard.  After that it was just mopping up.  They got a nice haul, too:  a big-ass pinky ring from the chief, a magical shield, a scroll of fireball, and some decent coinage.  I ruled that anyone wearing the WWE belt, gold chain and the pinky-ring together would get a set-bonus–reducing their Charisma by 1. 🙂

It was getting late, so we called it a night.  While the party had a couple of close calls, again nobody died.  Thanks to the higher monster XP awards I’m using, the thief and cleric are now 3rd level, and the dwarf and MU are 2nd level.  Something I forgot to do was half the XP they got from the orcs, since everyone in the party was at least 2nd level at that point.  It only amounted to about 100 XP per player, so not that big of a deal.  However, I’ll have to keep it in mind if the party continues to pick on 1 HD monsters (though there aren’t many of those left in the caves now).

I’d say the last couple of sessions have been fairly easy for the party, despite a few close calls.  But so far they’ve only fought 1 HD and 1/2 HD humanoids.  Other than the ogre (which they got lucky on), they haven’t faced anything really tough yet, so it will be interesting to see how they adapt when they move deeper into the ravine and face the nastier monsters.  I’m also heartened to see the party interact more with the NPCs in the Keep.  There are some interesting opportunities for adventure and intrigue, should the party choose to pursue them.

On a personal note, for a long time I’ve wanted to run a ‘hard core’ old school game using B/X or one of the retro-clones.  But as this game continues I find myself increasingly slipping into old habits.  I’m not religiously tracking turns in the dungeon, I’m not making the party keep track of every torch and ration (though I do make sure they mark off oil and ammunition) and I usually only make wandering monster checks when the party travels to or from the Keep.  Another rule we implemented last session, players can transfer their old character’s accumulated XP to new their characters upon death or retirement.  All of this is probably considered heresy in old school circles, but I don’t really care.  It’s a game of fun and adventure, not accountancy and frustration.

Cheers.

Caves of Chaos Pt. 2

November 3, 2012

After spending the night at the Keep, our stalwart band of bloodthirsty treasure hunters ventured forth for another expedition to the caves.  Along the way they picked up their charmed ogre, Bruce, and headed for the cave entrance furthest to the right (one of the Orc tribes).  Upon entering the cave they’re greeted by a wall of rotting, severed heads.  The cleric thinks he spots movement on the wall out of the corner of his eye, but fails to notice that one of the heads is different now.  After a few minutes of bumbling about trying to decide which way to go, they hear the sound of rushing orc jackboots coming from their left and their right.

The party wisely backs out to form a shield wall at the entrance to the cave, with the cleric and one of the men-at-arms they rescued last week (Max) at the front, with the elf and his charmed hobgoblin servant-girl in the second rank wielding spears.  Almost as soon as they’re organized, the party is set upon by nine orcs.  The party got the upper hand and quickly dispatched them with a sleep spell.  Nine slit throats and looted purses later, the party proceeds south, deeper into the orc cave.  They pass through a large common room, with passages leading further south, and two heading west (one of them sloping up).

They opt for the sloping passage and quickly come upon a T intersection, with a locked door to their right and another passage heading south on their left.  Deciding doors=loot, the thief attempts to pick it and fails (of course, being only level 1) so they unleash their back-up door opener, Bruce.  The massive ogre bashes down the door with a couple of deft hits (very loud hits) and the now vacant doorway reveals some sort of store-room filled with various dry goods.  Just as the party initiates loot manuever Delta-6, they hear a commotion behind them.

Turning around they see a large number of orcs spilling around the T intersection, heading their way.  Thinking quickly, the elf throws a flask of oil down on the ground in front of the savage orcs.  But before anyone can toss a torch on it, the orcs back off around the corner, down the sloping passage.  Filled with righteous fury and divine wrath, the cleric gives chase, jumping over the puddle of oil and charging around the corner…only to discover the orcs are waiting for him on the sloping passage.  Backed up by the ever faithful Max, they form a new skirmish line, followed up by the reluctant elf and hobgoblin, again employing spears from the second rank.

However, the orcs, too, employ spears from the second rank.  The cleric is quickly knocked down to 0 hit points (down, but not dead) and Max gets an orc spear through his chest as a reward for his faithful service (though not before killing an orc or two).  Front line down, the orc horde presses its advantage.

The elf quickly realizes that while battles of attrition work well for Asian land wars, and perhaps the Eastern front, they don’t work well for adventurers trapped in a lair with monsters between them and the exit.  She casts a sleep spell, rolling well enough to drop the lot of them.  They quickly bind the clerics wounds but before they can do the usual slit-throats-loot-corpses routine, they hear yet more orcs approaching from behind.  Deciding they’ve had enough glory for one day, they grab Max’s corpse and beat feet for the Keep.

On the way out of the ravine they stop to bury Max in their rapidly expanding graveyard.  Unfortunately, no one elected to keep watch (even after I expressly asked them if anyone was keeping watch).  Before they could finish poor Max’s internment, vengeful goblins emerge from their cave and pelt the party with javelins.  Almost everyone is hit, even the poor magic-user who’s usually in the back and rarely in danger.  The charmed hobgoblin goes down with a javelin in the face, followed by their other rescued man-at-arms (whom I named Bron).  Morale shattered, the party flees to the Keep to lick their wounds.

One nice thing about low-level characters, if they manage to survive a wound they can usually heal pretty quick.  By the next day the party is healed up and ready for more punishment.  They do manage to recruit a rather charming, if not particularly bright, dwarf (a new player who showed up later that night).

Picking up Bruce again, they decide that not clearing the goblin lair was a tactical error, so that’s where they head.  And then promptly turn left, heading up to the hobgoblin area instead.  The barred door had been repaired (somewhat) but once again Bruce Doorbane made quick work of it.  And then the slaughter began in earnest.  The party cut a swath of bloody destruction through the hobgoblin lair until they reached the chieftain’s lair, whereat mighty battle was fought…until the party doused the chieftain with oil and set him on fire, making quick work of him.  Oh well.

Seeing their boss go down in flames (literally), the rest of the hobgoblins fled.  The party gave short chase, but weighed down with platemail they couldn’t keep up with retreating hobgobs.  Executing loot manuever Gamma-3, they shifted through the chieftain’s sooty remains, finding a gem-studded belt, discovered a locker in the chieftain’s quarters with a hidden bottom containing a fair amount of coins as well as a mysterious bottle, and cleaned out the hobgoblin’s armory.  It was getting late, so we called it a night.

I introduced a new house rule allowing mages and elves to write scrolls, adapted from the Holmes edition:  1) the spell has to be in their spell book; 2) it costs 1,000 GP per spell level; and 3) requires 1 week per spell level (the Holmes version is 2,000 GP  and 1 week per spell level…but with only a 20% chance of success!).

Some observations:  the party is quickly falling into the exhaust spells/return-to-Keep routine (aka the 15-minute adventuring day), a behavior I’d hoped the bind wounds houserule would discourage.  It’s hard to blame them though, given how fragile their characters are.  Also, for some reason the magic-user hardly ever uses the ogre for fighting.  Bruce has mostly been tail-end Charlie in the marching order, brought up front only when there’s a door to be smashed.  And no PC deaths this session, despite a couple of rookie errors (though they did loose most of their retainers).  To be fair, though, the players are doing a lot of things right, like employing retainers, using spears from the second rank, throwing oil and, above all else, running when they get in over their heads.

One final mention, the thief and the cleric made it to 2nd level.  This is rather fast advancement for B/X, but I’m using the 100 XP per HD of monster defeated, which really accelerates their advancement at lower levels.  One more session and the magic-user should be 2nd level, as well.  The elf, though, is going to take a while to level up.

As far as I know, we’re on again for next week, so we’ll see how things progress.  Cheers.


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