Monday, September 28, 2020

Meet Vis and Ostro - Orcs of the Caves of Chaos

In our play through of Keep On the Borderlands, I've had to name the leaders of the Kobolds, the Goblins and both Orcish leaders. 

Vis is the western orc leader and Ostro is the eastern leader, just like the Goths. Vis has lost his cave system to the party. 

Ostro thought Vis would get himself killed defending his caves, but decided to use diplomacy. At first glance, Vis failed but Ostro can't turn out Vis's tribe, he'll need the manpower to stop the party. Ostro had the smaller of the two colonies so his position was initially weaker but the characters cleared the Cave B rather quickly so everyone is sweating and swearing.

If the characters had hit them and left the cave system, Vis would still be in control and Ostro could think of making a move on him. But the dastardly humans know where Ostro's den is and could take him out. Oddly, they don't know where the exterior cave mouth is, so they have not tried a direct attack. The party also lacks the manpower to defend their position in cave B while hitting the cave mouth anyway. They discovered that when they took the cave and most of the orcs simply fled to Ostro's cave C. 

Vis and Ostro are unwilling compatriots. They are currently acting as co-leaders who work as a pair, but what is really happening is each is hoping the other gets an arrow in the eye. 

The orcs are getting smarter and wiser when it comes to tactics. The orcs woefully lack missile weapons and the party showed them what a sling is. They are now trying to make their own slings, which is far easier to make than a bow or crossbow. This has put the wounded warriors in the position formerly held by women and the women in the role of warriors. 

The other thing the tricksy party did was set up triplines. But instead of using rope, they gathered up rocks from around the caves and made 6-12 inch high steps in random places. Because the orcs see by infrared, they can't see a difference between the cave floor and the low rock piles. Rocks from the same environment have the same temperature. 

My daughter thought this one up from reading Les Misérables. The barricades in Paris were made in this fashion by ripping up the cobblestone streets to make a low step then placing all kinds of crap on top of it. If you managed to punch a hole in the barricade, you ended up stumbling into the muck that was under the cobbles. While revolutionaries rained gunfire and pots of boiling water down on you. 

They also put up a wicker door over the cave entrance which creates the problem where the orcs can see through it but not well enough to tell how many people are in there. Or more importantly, if the dogs are there. The party has taken to howling, which creeps out the orcs. 

The next trap they came up with was to place candles in the dark with cloaks and ropes hanging in front of them. It looks like movement, so the orcs rushed in to attack. The party hit them from behind, space that were kept dark. With missile fire. It's not very deadly, but the orcs fight their way out of a brighter area to a darker area while under fire. Usually, if they can flee, they do flee. 

The orcs are now lighting everything up in their caves because it's easier to deal with than sudden shifts in lighting. They are copying the wicker like door screens and steps to foil attackers.  

The net trap that caught Solvo was spread down the hall from room 13 at about knee level. It makes movement really difficult. They added rocks and garbage below the net to make noise and cause twisted ankles. The orcs haven't countered this as they don't have enough oil to set it on fire. But that is their plan. 

It's interesting that the kiddos are using history against me, I'm a social studies and history major. Should Vis and/or Ostro survive, they will be the trickiest villains ever. The siege of cave B is really changing the Caves in unexpected ways. 

I can't wait to see what happens next. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Seige - B2 Session

This map is very useful for something I put together in 2 minutes.  


Our heroes are completely under siege. The combined orc tribes have been hitting them non-stop since they took the B caves from them. 

Let's look at it from the orcish side. They have 27 male orcish warriors plus the two leaders. Some of the women have taken up arms to defend their home. I figured about half of them are available, which gives the orcs a total of 40 warriors and two leaders. 

Unfortunately, weight of numbers is not helping them "win", it's helping them not lose. 

Initially, they caught the party in a pincer move by attacking both entrances. The secret door is no longer a secret. The two times this was attempted, the party was caught in room 16 and were able to foil attack with tricks and traps near the secret door. 

From that point forward, the party left a deadfall trap in room 13, which made the orcs abandon it. The party used this area to launch a surprise attack on room 12. The orcs managed to dislodge them by attacking the mouth of the C cave. As a result, room 13 is now a no man's land,  heavily trapped with oil, pits and spikes. 

The orcs have also tried to lure the dogs out to kill them but failed. 

There have been a total of 10 attacks on the cave's mouth all of which have failed. The orcs have lost 12 warriors in all of the combined attacks. They keep losing with bad morale rolls more than actual deaths. The party is shooting them in the back, from hidden positions. They are saving those +1 arrows for the orcish leaders. Thankfully they are out of magic arrows. 

The goblins and kobolds are proven themselves to be useless to either side. The goblins utterly fail to be be helpful to the party, only attacking when the orcs rout. The kobolds are equally opportunistic, attacking the goblins once they walk by. 

The party owns the battlefield and can escape almost at anytime. They did make one miscalculation. The cleric whipped out a sling and now the orcs are busying themselves copying it. Missile fire has been the deciding factor in combat. The orc leaders have been bearing the brunt of the these attacks. 

As expected, the party has leveled up to third level, with the exception of Aleric who is stuck at first level due to his 3 classes. They have also discovered the importance of healing characters. 

This is an unusually campaign as the heroes are bent on using tactics over killing. This one session covered about 13 days. They are frustrating their opponents. However, they are slowly becoming aware of the fact that they may end up fighting 3 successive battles with the orcs, the goblins and maybe even the kobolds, all in one day. They know they can't win that war, so they are thinking of fleeing the Caves of Chaos entirely.

We will see next week. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Chaotic Cave Combats - B2 Session 5

The party almost bit off more than they could chew, but got really lucky. 

I should talk about the horse swapping and gossip first. 

The goblins have been raiding the kobolds, trying to bottle them up in their cave. During one raid, Solvo the thief and Lauren the ranger tailed the goblins and got a good look at the entrance to the kobold's lair. There were some injured kobolds and goblins, but no deaths. 

As Solvo and Lauren made their way back they were followed by a half dozen goblins and all of the kobold warriors. The rest of the party fired a couple of arrows at the kobolds which routed them. No deaths, but it caused a meeting between the goblin warband leader, Brekan and the party. The goblins find their new neighbors to be useful for the moment. That and the leader, Brekan was impressed by the gift of a puppy the party bestowed on him. 

Next, I have named the leaders of the orc tribes. The orcs in B are lead by Ostro and the orcs in cave C are lead by Vis. Ostro's orcs were soundly beaten by the party when they raided the goblin caves. Vis and Ostro met. Ostro wanted to see if the two tribes could reach an agreement to combine forces against the party and the goblins. Vis suggested that all of the women folk come to his cave and Ostro should drop dead. Ostro attempted to press the negotiation, with a punch but Vis was unimpressed and became more hostile.  

The party delivered some instant Karma on Vis. The party is confused about where the orcs are coming from and believe that all of them are in cave C, Vis's tribal home. They are completely wrong, they fought off Ostro's orcs in the goblin caves. They don't realize there is another cave B of to the east. (Vis is the western leader and Ostro is the eastern leader, just like the Goths.) 

Anyway, the heroes gathered up their wargear and mounted an offensive on Vis's cave. They even brought the dogs. However, nothing went smoothly. 

Solvo had the net trap fall on him, but the dogs surged over the top of it. The party was surprised by crossbow fire because I decided there was an orc with a crossbow in each main room due to the heightened alert status of the tribe. The dogs and a few arrows made short work of the orcish crossbow men. What the party didn't know was the dogs only attacked active combatants, and many of the orcs hid or froze at the sight of the dogs. When the party passed, they ran from entrance C to entrance B. 

Vis and Ostro heard the commotion and jointly pushed the party back. The party got pinned between the guard in area 16 and the orcish leaders coming through the secret door. As the party took down the guard behind them, the orcish leaders sensed that the battle was going poorly and retreated. Aleric, Solvo and Helvani nearly died pursing them in Ostro's cave system (B). 

The goblins and the kobolds noticed all of the mayhem and attacked the entrance to cave B. They were easily driven off because the whole thing devolved into a 4 way battle between two different groups of orcs, the kobolds and the goblins. Again, no deaths. In case you haven't noticed, I don't roll dice for stuff the party isn't a part of. 


The party now controls all of the areas in green. They have seen areas marked in orange. Brekan and the goblins are glad to help the party move further from their home. Brekan would really like to drive out the kobolds, but believes he needs more dogs and crossbows to do it. 

The kobolds also have plans. Kregg, their leader has put his tribe to work mining out a small exit from his room. It's really close to the Orcs in area B, but he doesn't care. He plans to hoof it if they get hit again. They will probably escape into the wilds and return when things die down. 

Vis and Ostro have barricaded the eastern most secret door. 

The party engaged in healing, as per their usually lack of care. They healed the dogs first leaving everyone except Belaphon pretty banged up. They almost paid for it when Solvo investigated room 13 and found the money and the centipedes. Aleric and Vandohl heard the ruckas and saved him. 

A little while later, Vis and Ostro peeked in on the heroes and decided not to press their luck against the dogs, Vandohl and Belaphon. Being fearsome orc leaders, they sent in the cannon fodder. Belaphon popped them with a light spell and Vandohl gave out a war whoop that sent them running before the dogs could get in on the act. Those damned dogs... The orcs don't know how many there are because they've only seen them one at a time. They believe there is a pack of them and not just two. 

During the party's second night in cave C, the orcs attempted a second attack via the secret door. The party expected this. They has made a rather nasty hedgehog trap of sharp sticks in that hallway and they wove a stick door for the entrance to the cave system. The dogs roam the area freely. The orcs got nailed with a magic missile for their trouble and retreated. 

I have a score card for the orcs. 

In area B, there were 22 male orcs and 8 of them died in the attack on the goblins last session. There are also 18 females and 9 children. In area C, there were 16 male orcs and 5 were killed in the fighting with the party. The remainder escaped to area B with all 8 female orcs and the 3 children. One more died in the attack on the second night. 

The orcs collectively have suffered 35% causalities, or more. If something doesn't change, the party will annihilate them. 

That change? Some of those non-combatant females now have swords. They are going down with out a fight. 

I'll be doling out experience for the party as soon as they catalog their new findings. I expect several to level up.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

OSR OCD. Witches Brew.

Back in my campaign on the Peninsula of Plenty, I had a coven of witches. These characters were straight up magic users that operated with a pack like mentality and a specific political goal. In order to give them enough power to stand toe to toe with the party physically, they needed to be overpowered. They are 3rd, 5th and 7th level. 

Since the party was 3rd level or less, the witches operated with some serious societal restrictions. The Coven of Ash adhered to "The Old Ways", which was unrestricted authoritarian rule. Most of the Empire is not on board with this, including the Emperor. 

Their visible presence invokes terror, so they move at night or invisibly. Most of the tactics involve terrorizing people with non-attacks so as to maintain their invisibility. Say, simply surrounding a target, pinching or poking a victim is enough to scare the target into doing what they want. The Coven of Ash are not your typical witches because they're totally unbalanced. They are supporting an authoritarian regime which doesn't even exist anymore. They are basically the Sheriff of Nottingham with magic. 

It worked well enough, but now that I got my hands on Timothy S. Brannan's Witch themed books, I can see how witches can be better than mere magic users with quirks. I just have three of the books in the series: The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch TraditionDaughters of Darkness: The Mara Witch for Basic Era Games and Cult of Diana: The Amazon Witch for Basic Era Games

To be super honest, I was attracted to the series by the cover art of Cult of Diana and The Mara Witch but I find the one "joke" book, The Pumpkin Spice Witch to be my favorite. It's all the same author, so I don't know if it's the tone or the generic nature of the Basic Witch which appeals to me. 

I've also made the mistake of printing all three books and storing them in one binder. I find myself flipping from one to the other. I play this weirdo mashup of B/X and AD&D, so I don't really notice minor differences in purpose, which I am sure is there. 

Anyway, I am getting ready to roll up a couple of witches and introduce them into my B2 campaign. The players hopped right past the hermit and a good witch seems to a suitable, player friendly substitute.  

Current situation: Reading The Cult of Diana

I’m on laundry duty tonight. However, I’ve got a good book to read. I have Timothy S. Brannan’s The Cult of Diana - The Amazon Witch Tradition

I’m posting from my phone, so this is painful and short. 

The book is a shockingly compact 25 pages but has no lacks. It was designed for Blueholme Prentice rules, nice set of retro clone rules. The art is very nice. Ok. I love the style, but don’t want to oversell you. (I have a tendency of doing that with artwork.) Some of the art appears between the columns like newer editions of D&D, while harkening back to the old school style of first Books. Tables are neatly shaded in white and blue for maximum readability. The spells are all new and suitably themed. I was particularly taken with the spell “Surocco”. It reminds me of the Bora, a gale force wind from the Alps, which helped Theodosius' forces defeat his enemies at The Battle of the Frigidus River. It strikes me as something very preternatural something only a witch could brew up. 




Friday, September 11, 2020

Summing It Up - B2 Session 4

The characters came out of session four in good order, but I am regretting a few things. So far the characters have a grand total of 2659 experience between combat, good tactics and treasure. 

In my campaigns, I generally only have silver and gold pieces. B2 assumes that all five coin types will be used which makes experience tabulation a nightmare. Annoying. 

Second, I gave the characters several hundred points of experience for good ideas and role play. The standout events were Solvo playing dead in the ogre's lair, the removal of the ogre's body to a fake campsite, the cleric praying for the ogre and the whole party using the secret door to ambush the orcs. 

In most of these cases, a single player or character came up with the idea and should have reaped the reward. The way I handle this under play conditions is to put a number on an index card and hand it to player. These points can be added to their experience immediately, unmodified by attribute bonuses OR if they wait to the end of the session, they can add in their experience modifier. This didn't happen because we've been playing outside with just the DM's Guide and Player's Handbook as a reference. 

This game isn't following my normal play style. The players are not really thinking about "leveling" or "experience" or gain more power. They are actively attempting to outsmart me by mere survival. I don't play to kill the characters, so I need to push the players into better stats because they don't care. Maybe they will after more success. 

I need to complete this campaign by October, as my son is going into the Air Force and won't be available to play. And I don't really want to play this one without him. 

Anyway, why don't you pick up either B2 Keep on the Borderlands or my character sheets on DriveThruRPG. 


Character Sheet for AD&D
Character Sheet
Character Sheet for AD&D

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Session Updates - The Characters

The Adventure continues in Borderlands. I'll be doing a real session update this weekend. This week has been hectic, with my kids going back to Virtual School and I went back to work, hopping between two really great 6-1-3 classrooms both virtually and in person. It's good to see new and old students again. 

Back to D&D. We have been playing two short sessions a week. It been a lot of fun and I have handed out a lot of experience points. I wanted to share the kids character sheets before they got too messed up. 

I have them in PDF form for download, if you need a low level character in a hurry. Just click the link for the file. 

First up is Aleric the Fighter-Cleric-Magic user. He is the only first level character, but he packs a lot of firepower. He has chain armor and a small shield plus a bow and bastard sword. 

Next is Belaphon the Mage. I use "Wizard" and "Mage" as synonyms for "Magic User". He's an Elf and usually has sleep and magic missile memorized. He's frail, but stands next to Aleric when the fighting starts. 

Helvani and Lauren are next. They are the paladin and ranger duo. Helvani, like Aleric carries a bastard sword and bow while Lauren is using a short sword and bow. Both wear chain and carry a shield. Each has a backup weapon, a hatchet and axe which double as tools. 

Solvo the thief is the idea man of the party. He has a short sword and bow. Solvo wears leather armor which is no where as a good as his Dex modifier. He's a bit too agressive for his hit points and AC, he's been knocked down to 1 HP twice. 

Vandohl is the party's cleric, armed with a mace and sling. She doesn't use a shield, so of all the fighter-types she's a bit more vulnerable. For some reason, she isn't willing to heal the party unless someone asks her. 

These character sheets date back to the 80's, when I first got my hands on a Mac 512K and Unearthed Arcana. One of the main features of this sheet is the comprehensive encumbrance tables on the backside. Back in the day, a lot of my players were in love with spy movies and woodcraft, so they all had tiny first aid kits and gizmos shoved in their pockets. That trait was extended to their characters. 

If you like these sheets, you can download them at DriveThruRPG. 


Character Sheet for AD&D
Character Sheet

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Travel Ship Construction - Devil Fish Warship

I dug out my set of Traveller rules. They seem to be a combination of the Classic Traveller quick start rules and some portion of the original Traveller rules. The person who gave them to me made photo copies of the original rule set, but didn't staple them so it's a mess. 

Instead of creating a characters, I went right to the ship construction rules. I like them. They make ship construction fun and easy. I came up with an idea and was able to spec it out in short order. 


This is an old warship refitted for cargo duties. It's a "Devil Fish" class ship. The rules allowed me to have a really out there design which made sense on a couple of levels AND the whole process lends itself to quick memorization of statistics. 

Tonnage: 400 tons
Crew: 5
Main Compartment: 335 tons, Engineering: 65 tons. 
Bridge: 20 tons
Staterooms: 5
Jump Drive: C
Maneuver Drive: J
Power Planet: J
Computer: 4 (Launch, Target, Jump 1, Maneuver/Evade, Library, Navigation, Generate, ECM.) 
Fuel: 120 tons.

Standard Equipment: Laser Turret (1), Lifeboat, One empty hardpoint. 

Non-standard Equipment: Nuclear Missiles (10) on two hardpoints. 

Even while deviating from the standard rules by adding nuclear missiles, the system works. It even hints at why this ship would survive a couple of wars before being refitted as freighter. 

The ship has just enough fuel to make two jumps and maneuver. It's a hotrod with those J type power plants and engines. However, the fuel load is worrisome. You have one jump to the target, one to return home and a good amount of fuel to maneuver. However, if any thing goes wrong it probably can't complete it's mission. Contaminated fuel, a hit to the fuel tank or a bad jump and the ship doesn't hit the target or doesn't come home. 

This ship is a dream to fly, but not the best warship. Given that it's supposed to bomb the snot out of planets, it's not the first ship selected for a mission. The Devil Fish is a nuclear deterrent ship which could be displayed and flown but not used before it outlived it's usefulness. 

Later, I'll be looking at the civilian freighter version and talk about mechanics.