Showing posts with label Campaign. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Campaign. Show all posts

Monday, August 3, 2020

New! SM05 The World Guide to Barnaynia

New Product from Dunromin University Press. This one is called The World Guide to Barnaynia. 

SM05 The World Guide to Barnaynia
SM05 The World Guide to Barnaynia
SM05 The World Guide to Barnaynia

I'm not ready to do a review. In fact, I haven't bought it yet, owing to the fact that payday is Friday. Also, this book is over 200 pages of world details on Barnaybia, so it would take me a while to process it. I have many of the other titles in this series and enjoyed them all. I haven't played a session in this world, but I am looking forward to doing it. 

One of my favorite things about this whole series is the artwork. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it is gloriously old school. Many of the images and maps look hand drawn, but are crisp and sharp like digital renderings. I suppose I could ask which it is, but that would ruin the mystique. 

One tangent. I hope you like these prepackage links which look like DriveThruRPG's product links. They aren't, I make them up on the fly. I do have instructions on how to make those for your website, at this link. When you do the code, you'll have to reference your copy of the image or link directly to DTRPG's .png file. Usually, it is 140 px and a .png. Also, don't forget to change the affiliate number so you get credit. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Pre-Generated Characters - 2nd Level Monks 002


This is my second group of monks. Decima, Seneca the Swift and Segria are fairly typical monks for my campaign. They have temporal tasks, which takes them away from their homes in the monastery. They have a lot of money for monks, which probably indicates they are either transferring funds from one location to another or have taken in a donation Segria has small diamonds flecks, which are important to her order.

Each of these characters has probably been on an adventure or three. I like to give my pregenerated characters some flavor with their equipment. Each character has something either secular like an instrument or spiritual like intense or a book. One of them has a wooden sword, which could be an interesting reveal, sort of like Book's ability to use a shotgun on Firefly. 

If there is a call for it in the comments, I will make DOCX and Google Doc file available as I have the PDFs. The reason I have not done this from the get go is that I created every character of a class in one document and print each page as a PDF.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pre-Generated Characters - 1st Level Assassins 002


This is my last batch of Assassin for a while. I meant to generate level 2 Assassins, but somehow reverted back to level 1. Oops. Anyway, Elvina, Arrius and Linus are more in line with classic AD&D assassins than the assassins in my campaign.

Each of these characters has probably been on an adventure or three. I like to give my pregenerated characters some flavor with their equipment. One of these assassins has a lute and two of them have books which touch on ethics which is an interesting spin on assassins.

If there is a call for it in the comments, I will make DOCX and Google Doc file available as I have the PDFs. The reason I have not done this from the get go is that I created every character of a class in one document and print each page as a PDF.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Pre-Generated Characters - 2 Monks and Terry


These 1st level characters are monks, Miles and Laelia. Terry is a joke character. Click the link to download the PDF file. These characters are almost ready to go. In generating ability scores, I made sure the range was acceptable in both D&D and AD&D. To convert these characters to straight AD&D, simply add or subtract the racial modifiers and class abilities.

Terry is comic relief. As you read through his character sheet, you'll realize that he is every person you've met in a costume at a renaissance fair. I normally don't do joke characters on my blog, but Terry is exactly the type of shenanigans I engage in at the table.

If there is a call for it in the comments, I will make DOCX and Google Doc file available as I have the PDFs. The reason I have not done this from the get go is that I created every character of a class in one document and print each page as a PDF.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Pre-Generated Characters - 3rd Level Assassins


These 3rd level characters are Assassins, Marcus, Mircea and Tulia. Click the link to download the PDF file. These characters are almost ready to go. In generating ability scores, I made sure the range was acceptable in both D&D and AD&D. To convert these characters to straight AD&D, simply add or subtract the racial modifiers and class abilities.

In my campaign, Assassins make up between 10-20% of the human Empire's Legionary. These characters have far more than a typical adventurer would have owing to the fact that they are professional soldiers. I will post again with a better explanation of their equipment.

If there is a call for it in the comments, I will make DOCX and Google Doc file available as I have the PDFs. The reason I have not done this from the get go is that I created every character of a class in one document and print each page as a PDF.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Encumbrance and Campaigning with ads from Gander Outdoors.

I love my characters, but a lot of times they come up with some odd choices. Backpacks are one of my favorite sources of amusement.

I haven't done an ad in a while, so I've plugged some backpacks from Gander Outdoors here. Clicking the pictures will take to their site to buy.  

On the left we have a 70 liter bag while on the right, we have about a 30 liter bag. They are very approximately in scale.

Guess which one my players think they have?  

I really don't mind overburdened players, but somethings are beyond the pale. The people walking around with stakes and hammers and a small fry pan aren't the problem.

I have a very ad hoc encumbrance rule, one which secretly hides one of those never named zeroth laws. My ad hoc encumbrance rule is armor OR a backpack plus two items in your hands means you are totally encumbered. It may or may not slow you down, but you certainly can't carry more. You can also be encumbered by having stuff (or an opponent) wrapped around your legs.

Romans would pack a lot of stuff on their soldiers. Gaius Marius demanded that the soldiers carry most of the load themselves. That earned them the nickname Marius' Mules. The Romans didn't wear backpacks, but carried a sacrina.

Not a link to Gander Outdoors

The sacrina held a cloak bag, a pot, a satchel, a Patera or mess tin, food, a waterskin and a net for loose items, all on a big forked stick. Notice the rectangular satchel on the back and the net on the front. When they dropped these, they landed on that satchel with the stick projecting upwards for easy recovery and unpacking. The bonus of the sacrina was that it made armor a benefit to carrying one as the armor distributed the weight of the stick on their shoulder. This is probably a better tool for carrying stuff than a backpack over armor or a backpack full of armor.

Here is where my zeroth law comes in. You drop your stuff and I will almost never have someone mess with it. If you leave it behind, that is one thing, but I really don't want to annoy my players with cheap shots like stealing all of their gear. Stealing money, sure. But not a backpack.

In my most recent campaign, my players have made an art of being unencumbered at all times. They have 2 wagons, oxen and a bunch of NPCs in tow. When they say they have a pack, it's pretty much a purse: a snack, some useful items and some water. I'm vaguely annoyed because they should have purchased a boat, but instead got the wagons because I left that word, "ship" out by accident.

Oh, well.

How do you handle encumbrance in your campaign? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Skin Wolf Golem

The Skin Golem or more commonly named, "The Skin Wolf" is a unique creation of the Coven of Ash.

The witches of the Coven of Ash wear these pelts as a stole or cape, which conveys the Skin Wolf's armor class to the wearer. The Coven of Ash tends to use the largest martens as Skin Wolves, which has 9 hit points. Wolves are not common in the area. Theoretically, any fur bearing mundane animal can be used to create a Skin Wolf, such as a weasel, a bear, dog or actual wolf. The witches of the Coven of Ash have tried to make gnoll, elf and human skin golems, but it doesn't work. It also does not work on giant variants of mundane animals like Worgs, Giant Weasels or Elk. The name "Skin Wolf" is colloquial, it isn't actually description of what they are made of. The humans of Empire are aware of these creatures and are terrified by them.

If a victim survives an attack by Skin Wolves, they will notice a particular smell about them which will alert them to future attacks and foils surprise one third of the time. Note: this also applies to the witches themselves if they are wearing one. The number of Skin Wolves appearing is always equal to the number of witches. These golems are only useful to the creator, they are powerless in other people's hands. 

Frequency: Very Rare
No. Appearing: 1-3
Armor Class: 7
Move: 18"
Hit Dice: Equal the living creature's hit dice.
% in lair: 100%
Treasure Type: Nil
Number of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 1d4/1d4/1d4
Special Attacks: See Below
Special Defenses: See Below
Magical Resistance: See Below
Intelligence: Non Intelligent
Alignment: Neutral
Size: Various
Psionic Ability: Nil
 Attack/Defense: Nil/Nil

Skin Golems are relatively low level golems, which require a pelt and skull, special incense and the following spells: Friends, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, and Fly. It requires a minimum of a 6th level caster and a piece of incense valued at ten times the number of hit points the golem will have. The pelt and skull must be pristine. It requires one day to create a skin golem with the materials on hand. Hit Points are determined by the size of the animal, but the living creature must have had at least one hit die.

The creation process requires gluing the pelt to the skull which looks far from natural. Sometimes the ears and eyes don't line up between the pelt and skull. Also, the witch may choose to dye the pelt to either be stylish or fearsome. The Coven of Ash has a tendency to consume the flesh of the animal, however this is an alarming life-style choice and is not a part of the ritual of creation.

The Skin Wolf is a weapon of terror. They fly up to 30 feet from the ground and sound like a bullroarer in motion. They can strike up to 3 different targets, once each along their 24" per round flight path. They target the people closest to the witch first and work outwards. They are very maneuverable, but cannot flip end for end and require momentum to do damage. Therefore they tend to strike 3 different targets in one round, not the same person over and over again. Since they are simply flying pelts, they cannot grab, bite or otherwise manipulate objects. They can knock things over which makes noise and a mess. On a natural 20, they hit so hard that they knock the victim down rather than doing double damage.

The witch can choose to directly order the skin wolf to attack a single target, however, this limits the Skin Wolf to one attack and only allows a strike on a target the witch can actually see. It also precludes the witch from casting spells or making their own attacks. If  a witch feels like they are in control of the combat, they will make gestures like they are direct control of the Skin Wolf to terrify victims. If a witch is invisible and wearing a Skin Wolf, issuing it commands counts as an attack and ends the invisibility for both. Skin Wolves cannot be silenced or turned invisible, it defeats their terrifying purpose.

If the Skin Wolf is not engaged in combat, the witch can see and hear (not smell) what the pelt can perceive. Usually, the witch will place the Skin Wolf someplace to watch an area not command it to fly around looking for targets, however that can be done, too.

They have a special defense, bolts and arrows do only 1 point of damage per hit. Also, grenade-like weapons have a -4 to hit and they can dodge splashes. This is not true of thrown daggers, darts and other hefty weapons. They do full damage.

Holy water does 1d3 points of damage. It is often more effective to pour the holy water on one's self than try to make a grenade like attack as this damages the Skin Wolf every time it successfully lands a hit.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Pre-generated Characters - 1st Level Assassins


These 3 first level characters are Assassins, Felix, Laelia and Philo. Click the link to download the PDF file. These characters are almost ready to go. In generating ability scores, I made sure the range was acceptable in both D&D and AD&D. To convert these characters to straight AD&D, simply add or subtract the racial modifiers and class abilities.

In my campaign, Assassins make up between 10-20% of the human Empire's Legionary. These characters have far more than a typical adventurer would have owing to the fact that they are professional soldiers. I will post again with a better explanation of their equipment.

If there is a call for it in the comments, I will make DOCX and Google Doc file available as I have the PDFs. The reason I have not done this from the get go is that I created every character of a class in one document and print each page as a PDF.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Chutzpah over Charisma

Let's face it, charisma in AD&D is a dump stat for most players. I like using ordered rolls for stats, so whatever is rolled first will be strength and the last die roll is charisma. This invariable causes me to play characters with sub-prime attributes and sometimes a character with amazing stats in the complete wrong order. A wizard with 13 intelligence and an 18 strength or constitution.

For my campaign, I ignore prime requisite scores and let people run fighters with 5 strength, a cleric with 6 wisdom and so on. I don't require it, I merely allow it for the sake of speed and fun. With my group, I have always received reciprocity from the DM where they allowed me to play such flawed characters, even if they allow for some other method of ability generation that would prevent it. It's just the way we operate.

Since I do this as a normal operating condition, I tend to see characters as problem solvers. Weak fighters develop a means to fight other than brute force. Wizards make up for a lack of spells with magic items, and so on. That's cool.

Except for Charisma. I have this mental image of a high charisma character as stylish and charming. A low charisma character, in my mind, is operating off of what they have in other stats. A low charisma doesn't force foolishness or rudeness which are the purview of intelligence and wisdom, it's merely a lack of polish. Low charisma characters are more likely to use chutzpah over an excellently described plan. They just go for it and have very little understanding as to why this shocks others.

One of these days, I'm going to pull a prank on my players. I will write down the character's stats and then pick on the guy or gal with the lowest Charisma. It will probably come up in a high pressure situation. I will ask that person to roll the dice and no matter the outcome, I will hand them a note and ask them to read it.

It will go something like this:

Mr/Ms. Charisma: Ok, the dragon is probably a sleep, so we'll kick in the door and kill it with arrows.
Me as DM: Good. You have surprise. Make your attack rolls. 
Other players: Wait! What?
Mr/Ms. Charisma: The dragon probably thought of this and hired some orcs to guard the lair. And an ogre.
Me as DM: You're right! There are actually 12 orcs and 3 ogres rushing into the room.
The other players argue while being forced to roll attack dice. For some strange reason, they always have initiative and do lots of damage from covered locations. Everything seems to be slanted to the player's benefit.
Me as DM: You have defeated the orcs and orgres, here is your experience points.
Mr/Ms. Charisma, still reading from the note: Oh, but the dragon fled to the next room. I bet he is casting a spell to turn into a giant snake!
Other players: Why the hell would a dragon turn into a giant snake?
Me as DM: You hear the swoosh of scales on rock and a titanic hissing noise. Roll for surprise!
Mr/Ms. Charisma: Oh, this doesn't look good.
Me as DM: Right! The snake swallows the paladin whole!
Paladin's player: I don't want to be eaten by a snake!
Mr/Ms. Charisma: Oh, yeah. That's bad. We can't do that...
Me as DM: Ok, everyone argues against kicking in the dragon's door. So, what is the plan?

That is pretty much how someone with low charisma operates.

I wonder how long it would take my players to figure out I actually handed out experience and didn't ask them to delete it. I think I have 7 charisma myself, so group dynamic analysis is not my strong suit. But I think they'd try to keep the points and I would let them.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Going Off The Rails - Part 5. The death of Bloodless Jack

Back in Part 3, I posted about how the characters confused their nickname for their opponent with his actual name. "Bloodless Jack" was a character nickname for a deadly pair of brothers, Marcus and Alex. Marcus was the warrior while Alex was the assassin. When cornered, the warrior answered with bluster and the characters killed him off.

Of course this enraged his brother Alexander, the actual assassin. Alex retreated to his brother's mountain top Keep and sent wave upon wave of assassins to kill the player characters.

That obvious didn't work, anything less than Bloodless Jack himself was not going to be strong enough to take the whole party. Eventually, the hunt was turned on it's head and the players located Alexander's mountain top abode. Then they did something weird.

They could have stormed the fortress themselves, or raise an army to do so, but they did neither. They hired a sage to give them instructions to recharge the Staff of Wizardry. I messed up that plan with a rather obvious counter. The Staff needed to be recharged under the full moon within a mountaintop keep. You know, Alexander's Keep.

Why not?

The players had exactly 8 charges in the Staff. They went to Plan B. They hired a horde of dwarves and hobbits to scout the land around the keep. They were smart about it, one assassin, one ranger and one hobbit per dwarven party to handle any natural or unnatural threat. They had several dozen parties. It was easy work, because they weren't being asked to fight, only scout and run.

I wasn't going to let the players assassinate Bloodless Jack, so a couple of the parties were captured and killed.

But raiding and sneaking wasn't their game. The dwarves found a weak point on the side of the mountain, a cliff face that couldn't be hit by weapons fire from the Keep. They used a Dig spell to remove the soil from the area. The dwarves dug an entrance 10 feet deep into the rock and near this opening the party and their minions assembled.

From their base, they attempted to storm the walls while the dwarves dug in another 20 feet. Then the plan changed. The characters retreated to their hidey hole and the wizard went to work. He used the remaining charges of Passwall to carve a hole deep into the mountain. The dwarves shored this cave open with their stonecraft and everyone else jammed all manner of debris in the unnatural cave. Within the hour, they had dozens of barrels of water, oil, bits of trees, rocks, mud, and dirt lining the Passwall cave.

When the mage concluded that enough junk blocked up the passageway, he released the outer Passwall spell inwards, sealing everything in place like a cork. From there, it was simply a matter of running away from the Keep, but being mindful not to run straight down the mountain.

As each Passwall spell expired, all kinds of flammable or incompressible material was crushed inwards. The pressure was incredible. The mountain cracked and the Keep came off it's foundations. The whole thing plunged to the base of the mountain. Bloodless Jack suffered a Disney-like death, but the players were thorough. They made sure they found a body.

It was a fascinating exercise in the physics of magic. One that I will never allow to be repeated. This was too much work to get rid of one bloody, +1 Staff.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Going Off The Rails - Part Four

Back in 2015, I started this series about having stuff go haywire at the game table and never finished it. The first post was about playing for far too long and having wacky $hit happen because the players were too tired to think straight. Post two was about making a bad DMing choice and having the players run with it. Post three was about the players jumping to bad conclusions because the DM believed they understood. Post four should tell you about how the players defeated the evil Assassin, Bloodless Jack, but it won't!

Since this is the fourth post, let me tell why I can't tell you about Bloodless Jack's end. I need to set up the scenario as it played out, so I need to back up a bit.

This post is about a different type of mistake leading to player high-jinx. My campaigns have always been a blend of Basic, Expert and Advanced D&D. One quirk from the Moldvay-Cook expert set is the Staff of Wizardry. One of the functions of this item is the spell Passwall, which doesn't appear in either the Basic or Expert set. As far as I know, this spell is only in Advanced D&D. We used that book right along side the Moldvay-Cook set, so everything was fine.

So... anyway, I let one of players have this Staff of Wizardry. The character in question was about 5 or 6th level, so he had access to powers that I never anticipated. I saw "+1 staff" and thought it would be fine.

Once I realized my mistake, I decided to take it from the player in epic fashion. I would simply present him with so many opportunities to use it, he would run out of charges. He would keep the +1 weapon, but loose all of the crazy powers in an incredible display of force. He'd get a great story and I would "unwind" a stupid DM mistake.

No, no, it is never that simple.

As the characters hunted Marcus and Alexander, I needed to crank up the power level of the minions. The characters were now battling mounted knights with lances. I expected with the powers of the Staff of Wizardry, they'd get cooked and the charges would be burned up.

Oh, and did they get cooked. The mage got cornered by some knights. It sort of looked like this:


He let the knights get within 10 feet of him. I figured he'd do something cool to fry them or die trying, either one of which would solve my problem.


You know, it didn't play out like that. He decided to offensively cast passwall to create an opening in the ground right in front of the charging Knights. The hole would be at a 45 degree angle down, it would start in front of the mage and go backwards under him like a ramp.  

What? 

He drew me a picture, which was probably better than this: 


That was creative. And super fatal.

Exactly what could I say to this scenario? Horse one plunged down the ramp and slammed into a wall of dirt at top speed. Horse two plunged into a hole and into horse one at top speed. Horse three plus the fact that each rider was wearing plate with a lance set before them was worse than a train wreck.

But the player wasn't done. As soon as the last horse plunged down the hole he wanted to close it. Violently.

Holy crap.

The other characters stopped him. Their plan was to close the hole slowly, so they could rescue the horses. Sure they would need healing, but they were fine mounts.

My ruling on that was "Yes, you can close the hole slowly. But those horses are going to hate you, forever even if you heal them. You can buy your own horses in the next town. Deal?"

It was deal. But the seeds were planted.

We debated on how passwall was a great offensive spell, but also debated its various functions. Yes, the hole can be orientated any way you wish, including straight down. No, you can't cast passwall into the air above you to enter other dimensions. Nor does it cause movement against gravity.

But what about the closing of the hole? How does that happen? The PHB is not really specific, so we came up with some guidelines.

You could close the hole in a controlled fashion, where the bottom closed first, gently pushing anything in the hole out. The hole can be closed violently, where the entire length of the tunnel collapses in trash compactor style. Anyone inside can escape so long as they are able to move. They take minor (1d6) damage from being scraped and battered geting out. Option three, the hole closes from the open side in, anyone in the hole must make a save vs. death to escape before total obliteration occurs. Failure results in horrific screams from the very earth with a ketchup laser effect.

The last option was one of the better mistakes I've ever made.

Next post, I can tell you how Marcus and his brother, Alex, a.k.a Bloodless Jack were finished.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

9% of a plan

I have this idea for a project. Its part of an idea. Like 9% of an idea for a project.

Anyway, this is the first 1%. I have been working on a map of a Roman city for my campaign.


The light gray streets outline an insula. By definition, there are 64 of these areas in the city. My idea is to make 64 maps, one per page. On the left hand pages, there will be a mini-map of the insula with a large diagram highlighting one structure from the insula.

So, that is like 4.5% of my idea. That would look something like this:


The right hand pages would be character studies for some of the more interesting people that live in that structure. There might me more than one character study. There would be a picture of said character(s). That is the other 4.5% of my idea of this project. Perhaps it would be ruleset agnostic or specific to AD&D or D&D.

Not sure.

Like I said, it's like 9% of a plan.

I still haven't decided if this is a book or a patreon thing or something else. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tales from the High-backed Booth

My wife and I were driving for the sake of getting out of the house. We were rolling through East Amherst, NY. My wife is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, so walking was out of the question but she had been in the house for far too long. So, a drive it was.

"Ow," she said for the hundredth time, for the hundredth pot hole on Transit Road.

"Sorry. Again," I said, "Also, for the hundredth time."

Kitty laughed a bit. "I wish it wasn't so dreary. And I wish I hadn't taken that hydrocodone."

"Well, if you hadn't taken that, I would have never gotten you out of the house," I said.

"True. But still, I wish it wasn't raining." She sighed.

"There's a Tim Hortons ahead." I've never been certain if "Tim Hortons" is grammatically correct, or if it needs an apostrophe or if it was the Buffalo "S" running amok. Verbally, you can't tell the difference, but in writing it gets flagged by the spell checker, every time.

As I pulled in for our usual Timmy run, Kitty began musing.

"I should've put something in my stomach before that pill," she said.

"A muffin? Maybe a breakfast sandwich?" I offered.

"Hey, that's weird." Her voice was dreamy, distracted. "They turned that old tavern in to a temple."

SCREECH!

I didn't slam on the brakes, it was just the sound my brain made.

"What did you just say?" I demanded.

"That tavern, the one that looks like a barn. It's a temple, now." She pointed at a rough building across Transit Road.

The Peasant Dance by  Pieter Bruegel the Elder
It was an impressive structure, despite being so old. The roof was thatched and the second floor was made of reinforced wattle and daub, framed in dark thick timbers. The timbers were rough cut and stained, as was the central door. Around the door was more of that light colored wattle and daub and two matching holy symbols. A hex with an eye in the center and 7 lightning bolts radiating from the iris in every direction. 

What was especially odd was that the tavern's... er temple's other walls were made up of hay bales stacked up the rafters of the second floor. Someone had placed blue canvas under the bales to protect them from direct contact with the asphalt parking lot.

Kitty's eyes met mine and she sent one of those mental commands that only a spouse can do.

I swung the car around and crossed Transit Road. All six lanes, excitedly, but carefully. Equally carefully, I opened my wife's car door and helped her hobble to the entrance of the tav... temple. It was a trick getting her over the blue canvas, flapping in the wind and rain.

"Does it have a name?" Kitty asked.

"None, that I can see," I answered.

The door wasn't locked and we stumbled over the threshold; Kitty sucked air as her knee moved faster than the surgery would allow.

"Sorry," I said as I took her weight on my shoulder. Inside, by lantern light, I could see dark, rich colors and little else. There was a large rectangle, which I interpreted as a booth and table. We hobbled over and took a seat. We sat in the middle of seven high booths. For some reason, I moved to the seat across from Kitty, rather than next to her.

As I blinked in the relative darkness, I could see the booth backs were nearly six or seven feet high. We could only see a narrow slice of the room, like a hallway. Along the far wall was a high bar or a low wall. I couldn't tell which, but there was a lantern on that wooden bulk. The near wall was more interesting, it was made of hay. We both ran our hands across the prickly surface. A small tray of condiments was in the middle of the table, and inexplicably, there was a framed picture tacked to the hay bale wall. In the dark, I though perhaps the photo was of a couple or family standing around a table, but I couldn't be sure.

Kitty chuckled and said, "It's the Hydrocodone Tavern."

Unnerved by her chuckle I got up from my seat and moved next to her. A shadow loomed over us as a form blocked out the light of the lantern on the bar.

"Welcome to the Temple of the High-backed Booth." A zippo flared before my eyes. The friar lit a small candle next to the condiment tray. He was clean shaven, with ring of wild white hair around his head, but his scalp was bare, tonsured. He seemed to be wearing some sort of bearskin or perhaps a hair shirt. His boot steps were heavy thuds, even as he delicately shifted to the far side of the table to look at both of us. His look was full of judgement and appraisal.

He produced a pair of menus and two small black cups. Like the boots, they clunked solidly on the tabletop before us.

"I am Elder Bruegel, but you may know me as Peter." His voice was gravelly, like an old peasant's and his smile was slight like a wizened village elder.

"Diamonddraught from the Land, for the lady's knee. And Black Taquynian coffee imported from the Country of Torre, for the gentleman. Please consider your options carefully." He left the menus before us and faded back into the darkness.

"I'd say that was 'weird', but we're in an old bar turned Temple on Transit Road, ordering drinks," I said. "And there is a picture of the d'Amberville family standing around Stephen in a coffin."

"I don't want to know that. And I certainly don't want to drink this," Kitty indicated the cup before her.

"Yes, you do. Trust me."

She sniffed it. "It smells... powerful, clean."

I made a sound of assent.

"Trust me, it's better for you than what I have here. And this coffee is frickin' close to perfect." I fished around in the condiment tray for a half and half and raw sugar. A pair of percentile dice toppled out of the tray and there was a flare from my menu.

"What was that?" she asked.

"Something very good or very bad, I'm sure." I ignored the light from the menu and stirred up my coffee. I took a tiny sip. My whole face smiled as I remembered the last time I had this coffee.

"That good? You're face is going to stay like that if you keep smiling like that." Kitty tapped my nose and lips, smiling back at me.

"I haven't been to Elanith in forever," I said.

"Is that in Canada?" she asked.

"You need to drink, too," I said.

As I spoke she gently picked up the cup and sniffed it again.

"Trust me," I repeated.

She sipped the Diamonddraught and let out a deep, deep breath. Relief spread across her face. Although I had made her laugh and smile several times that morning, the creases of pain had let go of her forehead, dispelled by the giant's drink.

"Sir, the dice have been cast. Tell me your option." Elder Bruegel said. Funny, he had approached silently this time. It struck me as mysterious, the boots were gone, replaced by pointed shoes. A minor mystery I guess, because there was never any explanation.

I opened the menu and looked at it. It was blank but for one glowing line. I nodded at the option and it seemed fitting. Before I read it back to him, I asked a question.

"Elder Bruegel. Peter, sir. What is this place?"

"This is the Temple of The High-backed Booth. It is the place where one goes when one does not know what campaign they are on. It is the starting place of many adventures. But for people such as you, it is a resting place between adventures. As you know, at the level you two have attained, there is no magic and no miracles, but the ones you make. It is time for you to read me your selection," Elder Bruegel said.

Reassured, I read to him from the table in the menu.

"Number 67-68. Scout. The Son of the Miller," I read. I was pretty sure that if I had counted, there would be have been forty-nine blank spaces around it.

"So your adventure begins. Do you know what it means and what you must do?" Elder Bruegel asked.

I nodded.

"Do I get to roll?" Kitty asked.

"No. Any number of casts may be made in The Temple of the High-back Booth, but you are bound together in life and in this adventure," he said.

Kitty did not look happy at all. She was very disappointed not to be allow to play.

"My lady, it is very well, it more than suffices. Have faith. Take a chance today, like you did when he asked your leave, years ago," he said.

We only had a moment to hold hands and exchange nervous glances before Elder Bruegel returned with our food. He placed a covered platter before each of us and handed me a small bundle. It was made of parchment and wrapped with a wax sealed ribbon. Inside, I could feel cool metal.

"Do you know what to do?" Bruegel asked.

"Yes. I do." I answered. Before he could leave, I asked him for a blessing.

"Tireless guardian on our way,
"Thou has kept us well this day,
"While we thank thee, we request,
"Care continued, pardon, Rest."

"Thank you, Elder," I said. "That was beautiful."

Kitty smiled at him and he excused himself. That was the last we saw of him.

"Oh! It's perfect!" she exclaimed. It was a plate of strawberries, chocolate, tiny muffins and jams. "What did you get?"

"Bread. Want some?" I asked, but I already knew the answer.

She nodded and I broke it into pieces to share. She slather them with jam and we ate together, sipping our drinks. Just like we did on our honeymoon at Disney. The little jars of jam even had little Winnie the Poohs and Piglets, just like the jars in Disney did in 2001. I glanced around, half expecting a castle view out the window, but there wasn't even a window. A Disney Honeymoon is fantasy and this was real life.

"Is that the bill?" Kitty asked as she tapped the small package.

"Its... a form of payment. We paid in advance, I guess you could say." I answered as best I could. "We have to run the message to receive the reward."

As we drove home, the rain abated. Everything seems so much lighter and not just the sky. We felt lighter inside.

I gave the package to my son Paul, the scout.

Kitty asked, "What is it?"

"I don't know. Will see when it is done," answered Paul. He ran off to his bedroom with Elder Bruegel message.


Later that night, long after bedtime, Paul was done.

"I never would have gotten into models and games, if it wasn't for you dad."

I smiled. "I said the same thing to my dad. Probably more than once."

"It's a windmill," he said.

"What does it mean?" my wife asked.

"I think it is a sign. Millers used to be a place where people went to negotiate, with the actual miller-man acting as the moderator. It's a good thing to be, kind of the linchpin of society." I said.

"I don't care about that. I would like any thing you brought for me," Paul said.

"He's my boy, through and through," said Kitty as she gave him a hug.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Infirmary of Corellon

Corellon has no temples or churches. However, his followers have created spaces of refuge and contemplation of their maker. The Infirmary of Corellon is one such place. It is located on the eastern edge of the Great Savanna, in a elf made mound. 



The main structure has an eastern door and 10 roughly appointed areas for meditation. Each space ends in a small window that faces into the earth of the mound. The debris in these opening shift with the seasons but are never allowed to breech the side of the mound. Elves staying with in these spaces will find that meditation triples their healing and sometimes, if the need is great, visions will appear in the windows.


At the end of the central shaft is the Great Light, a magical creation that lights and warms the whole structure.

To the south-east of the mound is the caretaker's home. It is also roughly appointed with tables and chairs. The north section of the building houses a kitchen and the south section is a private space for the care takers. These two sections are separated with a green grown lattice of ivy. Stepping into the ivy magically transports the elf to the private area in the southern section and back. Only elves can make this passage function. If another creature attempt to cross this ivy threshold, they will be proportionally repulsed. If a weapon or spell is used on the ivy, the attacker will be teleported 1-3 miles in a random direction. Occasionally, they will arrive with their possessions, but most of the time they will be completely naked.

Between the two halves of the building is a roofed, pleasant area with tables and stools. Two sliding doors can be closed against the weather.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Drinking from Pods - Red Dice Diaries

Lately, I have listening to a bunch of different podcasts, new and old stuff. One 'cast that stands out to me is The Red Dice Diaries. John Alan Large has been hosting the show for a while now, and he has many interesting titles. This week I picked four: Potions (new), Magic Items (also new), DMing Rough Spot and Setting Agnostic vs Setting Specific. The first 3 I listened to really made me think of all the games I've played, to extent of not listening (yet) to the last.

Back when AD&D was the big boy game for TSR, we had about 12 regular players but only 3 of us would GM. Mark had an excellent style that was deeply planned out, but he rarely branched out into improvising anything. If it wasn't in the book, it didn't happen. Doug had an excellent game plan, but improv'd his way through everything. The rule book was something for the dice to fall on. My style was someplace between the two, very well planned out but using almost improvisational style comedy to make a point.

Doug was my best friend, so we argued. But it was a strange sort of arguing. If I didn't like something he did, I'd say so, but didn't expect this to change anything at the table. Usually, it didn't matter much. But for one campaign, Doug switched up his style and went entirely by the book. I couldn't get a sense of what he was doing and tried to play characters as smash mouth, in your face sort of people.

It didn't work out at all. My characters would level up the fastest and get the best equipment, but I died six times. My last character was "Reg". That wasn't his name. Doug asked me what kind of character I had rolled up and I answered, "Aw, just one of the regulars." Man, did that make him laugh. And the tag stuck. Reg the Magic User.

As a player, I understood the REASON for the change in style. The issue was Doug wanted to tell a complete story, therefore he needed to drop the goofy, light-hearted improv. My characters kept dying because I didn't know what story they were in.

Reg the Magic User broke out of that by being dangerously wrong genre savvy. He was also help by some incredible luck. I am not much of a magic user type, so I advanced by wit and cunning rather than magic. Usually by the end of the session, I had expended most of my 1st level spells, but nothing higher.

One bit of luck I had was a couple of magical items meant for the party cleric who expired before they could claim them. I could heal. An old man gave all of the characters magic weapons, except me, who received a black rock and a bag of holding. We battle a witch, killed a massive pack of wild animals and generally hunted for loot. We chased a unicorn and bought a ship.

One player found a green ring of regeneration, which I identified for them. At the time, I asked if there were any other magic rings in the treasure.

Doug said, "Yes."
I asked, "What kind is it?"
"What kind do you think it is?" Doug answered.
"Flying!"
Doug rolls some dice and says, "It is a yellow ring of flying!"

You totally know where this is going right? For the next year or so, my ring of delusion provided endless humorous to horrifying scenarios.

Doug decided that if my character had time, then he would cast fly on himself while attributing the magic to the ring. Unsurprisingly, my character would discover they forgot to study that third level spell. However, if my character ever tried to fly spontaneously or with no prep time, the ring would fail.

This went on for over a year, the player tagging off the DM to create interesting stories. Suddenly, the campaign ended, as we had completed the story, whatever that was. I had though the whole thing was lost on me due to my style of play. I couldn't figure out what the point was, or what the ending meant, but I did have a lot of fun. That seemed to be the message sent.

Fast forward 25+ years. I was watching a movie with my kids. There was a scene that left me dumbfounded. I picked up the phone and called Doug. "Reg was in Narnia!"

"Yes!"

I got it. Being a good DM goes beyond storytelling and being a good player doesn't have to follow expectations.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Assassin's Doom - Worldbuilding for a Campaign

I've been using detailed maps for this campaign and for the last 10 days or so have been trying to create a map for the city of Nace.

Nace is laid out as a typical Roman city, a north-south road, an east-west road, a forum in the center and walls and towers all the way around. All neighborhoods are inside insulas or regular shaped areas on a grid like map.

So what do you get when you fuse a Roman city with a classic D&D campaign?

Strange things.

First, what do I need for the campaign?

A town or city with a hefty population. 15-20,000 people are in Nace.

Who is in charge? An aedile is in charge of the city proper. At this time, this character is unnamed.

Do they have temples and churches? Yes, in the forum. If there isn't place for a given sect, it is in the planning. These people have no problem with negative/evil sects so long as laws aren't broken.

Do they have guilds? Yes, for all character classes except fighters and assassins. These people would be in the military. The Assassin Guild is defunct, all members were killed. There is also a combination religious and magical guild, necessary for the production of the Empire's magical crops. Production of useful material require both magic and religion. The thieves guild is rather small time, very low level members who usually move on to bigger and better things rather than advance as thieves. The city has a problem with brigand raiding, which puts thieving in perspective.

Is there a town guard? Yes. Made up of legionaries. There used to be a secret police unit, but it was wiped out with the Assassin's Guild.

So, what is the Assassin's Doom? It will be the first City Adventure my players will engage in. In the next couple of posts, I will detail what happened to the Assassin's guild and secret police, and explain why they haven't been replaced.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Peninsula of Plenty Campaign - Background Information

My Peninsula of Plenty campaign kicked off the other night. Things are still being worked out with the players, but I would like to give a brief game report in my next post. This post, I would like to focus on background.

First, The Peninsula of Plenty is based on Roman history and mythology. My game map is still in pro-type mode and has a scale of six miles per hex. It is roughly the same size as Italy.


The capital is located on the west coast of the Peninsula. It extends eastward for approximately 2/3 of the landmass and southwards a good ways. The Empire started off as a small town, expanded to a Republic and then to an Empire just like them Roman. This culture has existed in some form or another for 1,200 years. It has fallen into stagnation.

What is different about this culture? Well, there are elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings plus a whole cast of monsters. In this setting, the dwarves occupy a couple of hundred miles around an ancient volcano on the eastern lobe of the Peninsula. They represent the various hill tribes that engaged the Romans. Halflings are invaders/refugees from over the northern mountains, gnomes are friendly towards all and the half-elves are trusted by none. On the far east coast is the Capital of the Elves and their clients the half-orcs. The elves arrived from over the sea, and represent Hannibal and the Carthaginians. For a long time, it looked as if Roman would never be free of Hannibal. Just imagine if Hannibal had magic.

Half-elves are the most prevalent race on the Peninsula, They are viewed as monsters or misbegotten children by humans and deformed but still loved creatures by the elves. The elven Kingdom believes that they have magically devolved from true elves, while the humans believe they they are the offspring of evil, horrible elves and the innocent human victims they prey upon. While neither humans or elves will treat with them as a political power, they are free to move throughout the Peninsula. Other races like them just fine.

The human Empire clashed with the elves and dwarves over slavery. The Elves forced the Empire to give up non-human slaves. This was devastating to the human economy. In just one generation, the Emperor realized he couldn't defeat the elves and in an effort to save face, presented the idea that the legendary culture which the empire was founded upon never really endorsed slavery. He was a manumissions, as opposed to an out and out abolitionist. In this way, he prevented the general public from lashing out at non-humans in a way that would create an unwinnable war. For the Emperor, it was not merely lip service, but for general public, the reception of freedom for all was not established. Debates and outright war over slavery has racked the human Empire for centuries, keeping them from dominating the Peninsula.

The human Empire, (which I have not named yet) needs to secure it's southern flank from sea raiders. They would very much like to believe that it is the elves, but it isn't the elves. To this end, they will be deploying the 55th Legion to the area. The Fighting Five-Five, will take the role of sailors, based out of the city of Tabletop*.

Since the loyalist town of Tabletop is outside of the controlled border of the Empire, the Emperor's Council has employed the PC to blaze a trail of exploration to the town. The characters are also charged with checking on the Compass Rose Inn, a former Keep on the southern border. This was done in the spirit of the module X-1 Isle of Dread.

In the very next post, I will detail the PC's adventures so far.

*Why did I name a major city Tabletop? As a child I used to fish and swim off of some submerged, tabletop like slabs of concrete on the shores of Lake Ontario. It became a part of most of my campaigns and neither I, nor my players every made the connection between "Tabletop Games" and "The Town of Tabletop" since all of us have been to this real life location which appears in most of my campaigns.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Campaign Kick Off

I am kicking off a new campaign on The Peninsula of Plenty. Before I detail any of the events of play, I want to cover some general background and house rules.

First, Elves, Half-Orcs, and Dwarves are not allowed as character classes at the start. Humans, Elves, Half-Orcs and Dwarves are at war and the players are starting in the Human Empire's Capital. Half-Orcs are clients of the Elves and both are aligned with the Dwarves against the Human Empire. Halflings are a problem in the human realms, as they are fleeing south, over the mountains. They are at best, politically unreliable.

Below is the racial preference table we are using, which is revised from the last posting of this chart.

Peninsula of Plenty - Racial Preference Table
Race Dwarves Elves Gnomes Gnolls Half-Elves Halfling Half-Orc Human Kobold
Dwarves Preferred Neutral Neutral Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Hatred Hatred
Elves Neutral Preferred Tolerated Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Apathy Apathy
Gnomes Goodwill Goodwill Preferred Tolerated Goodwill Preferred Preferred Preferred Goodwill
Gnolls Apathy Apathy Tolerated Tolerated Apathy Tolerated Goodwill Tolerated Goodwill
Half-Elves Goodwill Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Goodwill Goodwill Apathy Apathy
Halfling Goodwill Preferred Goodwill Goodwill Goodwill Preferred Tolerated Hatred Apathy
Half-Orc Hatred Preferred Goodwill Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Neutral Apathy
Human Apathy Hatred Goodwill Apathy Hatred Neutral Neutral Preferred Apathy
Kobold Tolerated Tolerated Goodwill Neutral Goodwill Preferred Goodwill Preferred Tolerated

As a consequence, virtually all player characters are human, although that was not the intent. I was expecting some half elves, gnomes, and kobolds. We are playing D&D, with an overlay of AD&D. It is possible to be a generic elf which is the straight D&D class, or to pick a class as per AD&D. Only one character did this, the magic user is a halfling.

Next, we are using my rules for the Swashbuckler character class and Uncommon Commoners.

I have two house rules regarding magic: Clerics get spells at 1st level and every Magic User can cast Read Magic once per day in addition to any other spells.

I have a couple house rules regarding combat: Anyone can use a shield to protect themselves, two handed. They can't cast or attack, except for a rough attempt at knocking someone back with the shield. It isn't a good idea if you are a magic user. This rule appears in Uncommon Commoners.

If a magic user or cleric is has a weapon skill due to a professional background, they can replace one weapons with that profession's weapon. For clerics who are also chefs, they can use knives, but generally don't in combat. If a magic user has a skill that allows for a different weapon, say a hammer because they are a mason, they can use that instead of a staff, dagger or dart. These rules also appear in Uncommon Commoners.

Some rule sets state that once a person has been downed, they can be revived by another player. The mechanism for this in my campaigns are either a prayer to Saint Elam or a vial of Elamium. This is a reference to anesthesiologist, James Elam, who performed experimental mouth to mouth resuscitation here in Buffalo, NY at Roswell Park. It's an anachronism owning to my hometown.

There is the expectation that a lot of combat will do subduing damage, but the players can do as they wish. If NPCs are doing this, I will not announce it, but will describe it. This circles back to the Swashbuckler class which engages in this type of combat all the time. Swashbucklers are very far from fighters or thieves. They tend to kill only by a run-through attack after offering a chance to escape. It doesn't work on animals, because they can't be disarmed. 

The first session was pretty eventful and I will detail that in another post.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Kobold Warren Folly

Update - This post has been expanded into a short book with 4 maps on DriveThruRPG. It's priced at PWYW, with a suggested price of $1.99.  

Like the Compass Rose Inn Mini-Setting, this set of maps and descriptions are rule set agnostic. 

And now on to the original post from my birthday, Jan. 17th, 2016. 

This map is of a folly in the southwest of Potamus Bay. Who built the folly is lost to time. There is a larger ruin closer to the Lake, but it isn't as well preserved or interesting as the folly.

The tale of the folly's preservation is very odd and owes its history to the river. The river is subject seasonal flooding and one of those floods brought the kobold's to the folly.

The kobold's had their own underground village, which made them very happy. They stole the best food, killed the prettiest animals and had wild political intrigues that often ended in bloodshed. One day, the ruling clan pushed the wrong buttons and were tossed in prison to await their doom, as soon as the method could be decided.

A chance rainstorm freed the rulers, but washed them deep into the cave system. The village rejoiced at the apparent deaths. They were very kobolds happy, indeed. The ruling clan was washed away into the cavern system under the folly. They were able to squeeze and claw their way into the basement of the structure. The family rejoiced when they discovered the ring of pear and apple trees, the fresh water and rabbits.

There are no furnishing, no details inside the Folly.
The kobolds keep the interior bare.
The ring of trees continues, but is obscured by the
upper two levels. 

Over the years, they have set themselves up a kings and queens of the folly. They do not understand the principle of a folly, they believe that human or elven kings hold court in an empty building. The six rulers have set themselves up as the High, Middle and Low Kings and Queens. They receive guests through the windows, as there are no doors except trapdoors between the levels. They keep the folly up, but they do not live in it. They live below in finely finished chambers. Recently, they have hung curtains in all of the windows of the folly, purple, yellow and red. 


The family plans on enlarging the chambers, but for now they are satisfied.


The lowest level is almost all natural, only the eastern side has any finished features. The western side is often flooded with fresh water and sometimes contains fish.

Folly Details:
One Square equals 5 feet.
Height: 45 feet.
Depth: 75 feet below ground, as near as anyone can tell.
Population: 17 adults, 33 children.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Battle of the Compass Rose Inn – The Naming of Two Wills

Welcome, to the blog. I can also be found on MeWe in addition to Blogger. Back in 2015, I created a quick battle for a D&D game and ended up writing a relatively useless background piece on the scenario. Since that time, many of the details have been re-concocted for my D&D campaign and I had no idea what to do with this series of posts.

Today, I was invited in a MeWe Group called Vault of Imaginings and now I have a target audience for these three posts.

Please enjoy! 

When Willy the Scribe and William of Northmost were 12 and 16, a horrible disaster struck the Inn. A herd of boar piglets ran through the yard behind the Inn. Moments later, they were followed by a massive boar sow and a wolf, riding the sow’s back.
As the animals disappeared down the hill, the guests and family stood on the porch, shocked. The sow was cut off by a pack of wolves and ran back up the hill towards the Inn. Guests and family members took cover as best the could. Willy, Edwyna and Elma locked themselves in the barn. William dove for cover in an empty Lodge room. The rest took cover in the greatroom of the Inn.
Soon, wolves converged every point of the compass. They tore down the sow and her piglets in short order. Then they took a horse and pony. The pigs in the pen didn’t stand a chance. As the day wore on, the wolves picked the corpses clean and circled the Inn seeking more prey. Fighting among the different packs cause confusion. 
By afternoon, the children trapped in the barn grew thirsty. In the early evening, Willy decided to make a break for the Inn. The family and guests were trapped in the greatroom and couldn’t warn Willy and the girls that the wolves had penetrated the kitchen, the closest door to the barn.
When Willy and the girls opened the kitchen door, the wolves sprang. Willy shoved Edwyna out of the way and pulled Elma to safety. William of Northmost heard the ruckus and charged to their rescue with a spear and axe. The four of them fought their way to the Lodge steps and were forced up the stairs. William of Northmost was savaged at the foot of the stairs, he was left for dead in the scrub-like bushes in front of the Inn.
Willy managed to get the girls to the top of stairs where huntsmen knocked the wolves back long enough for the children to escape. Willy used his own body to protect Elma and Edwyna from serious harm. His backside and legs were horribly bitten.
By morning, the wolves were gone and William of Northmost was discovered in the shrubs. The hunters nicknamed him “Scrubs”, a name he detests as it sounded rough, rude and cowardly in his ears.
Willy was more seriously wounded and had a long period of convalescence. He spent most of his time writing. As he ran out of stories to put to paper, he took to etching stones from the garden.
In the place that Scrubs fell are three stones inscribed with the words: “Hope”, “Courage”, and “Strength”. This scratching of words on stones gain one William the nickname of “Scribs”.
If Scrubs could read, he would not be so sour about his nickname. There is a rubbing of these stones in Scrub's bedroom. It was placed there by the maid, Delia.

Navigation in order:
Post one, first meeting of these characters. (You are here.) Post two, William Scrubs. Post three, William Scribs.