1/21/19

Castle Redvald - Session #1 Report - Players Make Cool Stuff

Last night, I had the pleasure to run Underground Adventures alongside my dungeon Castle Redvald, designed following OD&D principles and structure (read: the old way). Pizzaready, one of the players, wrote an awesome narrated play report for the session, which I think illustrates well the notion that "story" is a byproduct of play. I don't really need to report every important event for the game since his report covers everything, so I'll leave you with his tale and come back at the end for some notes and thoughts on the game.

   The gleaming ruby eyes above the door of of Castle Redvald shined brightly in the morning sun, here, The adventurers; A "Chimney-Sweep", a Barbarian sailor, a brawny haberdasher-ess, and an escaped slave chanted their deepest desires;
"Glory and honor for my god Crom!"
"Knowledge"
"Adventure and loot"
"Exploration"
   With these utterances, the great doors grinded open, and they stared into the deep void that now replaced the great door. Two by two, the brave folk ventured into the depths of the castle.
   The first room was a grand entry hall, with two side exits and another grand doorway in front of them, flanked by two large, round stone heads. They opted for the western passage, which stank with death the closer they loomed near. A crypt, to the poorer, probably servant-folk of the castle laid their dead, shrouded and embalmed in small alcoves. The group trudged through unmatched. An act of greed led few of the party decided to toss a couple of the bodies, looking for trinkets of value.
"I don't like the look of this." Melusin stated.
Like prophetic speech surely, the bodies resisted, rising from their slumber, lurching forward with lethargic swings. Thom swiped the head right off of one of the dead, while Wilgric swiped at the advancing dead one, taking an arm. Lest over-swung his weapon, and it slipped from his grip. Melusin slashed with her blade, stepping between Lest and his opponent, allowing a hasty retreat. Wilgric passed his dagger to Lest,
 "Don't lose this one" he rasped.
    Then the group slipped back to the main hall. Tribal masked humanoids of small stature were in the once-empty hall, approaching the crypt. With a well set and sprung ambush, Melusin and Lest loosed ranged weapons at the tribals, forcing them to retreat, and Wigric decapitated what they learned to be Insect-men, who communicated with mandible clicks. Another lurched from the side and greviously injured Wigric with a well placed spear-thrust. In a rage, he wrestled the insectoid and dragged him back into the crypt, with shouts of protest and spears-slung from the nine insects left. Now, the dead men previously encountered, though slow, had caught up to the few. Clawing and snapping their teeth, the Insect man was fed to them like a meat grinder. As they feasted, the insect screamed, with no remorse, the party moved on, trying to shake the insect-tribe for good. They got their wish, with a caveat. After a snake through winding, identical passages, nothing but a grinning, painted-green skull mocked the party, sending Wigric into a rage, pounding at the walls with his 10' pole and then his fists. During this fit of rage, the party wrenched open a portcullis and found a secret door that looped back into the main room. Moving a bit closer to the statues next to the far grand door, the party inspected them, but kept a distance, and skirted the wall to the East wing, yet untouched. They proceeded to the far room, straight down the hall, which was an unsturdy, empty room, with weak wooden supports, and saw a long passageway that had partially collapsed. Shortly, they returned to the first room, passed over in the hallway. A small desecrated shrine and graffiti depicting a hammer striking an anvil with lightning dominated the small room, with offerings scattered across the floor. Prodding around with a staff, Thom uncovered a 30' pit, and Melusin fashioned a noose, then snagged an adventurer's backpack. Inside were some personal effects, including a silver pendant and some gold pieces from the previous owner, who had become the pile of bones next to said pack. A long conversation on the intricate differences between a "hallway"and "corridoor" were discussed at length between the party. Pressed on for more gold & glory, the party came to another, larger desecrated shrine, with an empty sarcophagus and more passageways onward. The pathways opened to a large open room, with a glowing weapon splattered with blood on the far wall. The party entered from the south, and Wigric took it upon himself to sieze the weapon, a gift from Crom. Gears grinded, walls shifted, the far wall now protruded with spikes and begun to close in on Wigric. He quickly darted back to his companions, narrowly escaping the spikes, and the party left the dungeon.
    After some horrible "bartering" back in town, the party decided to re-enter the dungeon after some much needed rest & relaxation.
"So, this god of yours, Crom, What is the benefit of his worship?" Thom asked Wigric.
"No benefit, but he gave man courage, and me strength to bring glory on him."
"That doesn't sound like a benefit." he shot back.
"Not a benefit for a cowardly man like you."
The trip back continued in silence.
    They were once again, face to face with the grinning, ruby eyed skull of Casle Redvald, which leered its same look as the first time they had entered. This time, they would try to pry the ruby eyes out for their own. With the combined 100' of rope, Melusin and Wigric were able to loop one end around the large skull face. Thom, the chimney sweep, climbed as his profession had him learn, and greedily grasped at the ruby eyes, once he was leveled with the skull. He didn't react in time when his hand passed through the illusory ruby and was caught in the jaw of an albino snake. He felt the poison course through his veins, he writhed for what felt like minutes before he smashed the thing against the skull, before slipping back down the rope.
"Snakes, Snakes!" he wailed. "The rubies were an illusion!"
    The disappointed party proceeded back into the maw of the castle. This time, Thom would test the strange prophecy we'd heard back in town before our first trip;
 "Dont trust the Statues" Now, the main hall was littered with bodyparts of insectoids, and the body of what looked like early-man lay dead, clutching a dagger in the center of the floor. They looted the bodies and found 15 platinum among them. Thom took up an insect arm and eye in each hand and flung them within 20' of the giant head statues. Pinkish eyes lit up brightly and beams of light pierced the room, incinerating the fleshy insect bits to dust. The party would take their chances with the crypt. The Insects must have been partially successful, for six of the undead littered the floor. They made quick tracks deeper into the crypt. The wimpering sounds of a lost man echoed along the walls from the wrenched-open portcullis, so the party went around. They sneakily approached an elderly fellow clutching a warhammer, with a tabbard depicting the hammer-and-lightning symbol they'd seen prior. After some negotiation, the party agreed to help him find his way back to his camp, deeper within the dungeon.
    [end session I]

What Went Well
• Party Dynamics - despite the language barrier (I'm fusing my french group with my anglophone group), I really felt like everyone contributed to the game in one way or another, with enough banter to add colour to the game without doing so much as to lose useful game time. With four players, there was no need for a caller as consensus stayed relatively clear during the session.

• Combat - surprisingly, a party of four 1st level characters went into a dungeon and nobody died. Player skill is responsible for this, as I didn't really try to make the first level particularly forgiving in its dangers and traps. As always, OD&D is almost invisible, and lends itself to rulings moreso than more complete games.

• Traps & Tricks - I was quite happy with how the party and our group handled trap-finding (through description alone). I think everyone felt it was fair whenever something bad happened to the party, and a lot of dangerous stuff was avoided through cautiousness and good thinking.

What Needs Improvement
• In Maze Rats or Into the Odd, I usually make dungeons more dense in content, with a lesser focus on mapping as a challenge. Here, using a multi-level, 100+ rooms per level dungeon means navigational indications and descriptions are much more important to the players. And I'm still having a hard time conveying map information in a clear, efficient way - despite a lot of goodwill on the players' part, it appeared that the easiest solution in the end was to regularly use paint to assist my verbal descriptions which were often confusing. Three options come to mind:

A) Learn to use shared maps programs like roll20 or the likes, and use technology to compensate for the lack of a proper table where I could be doodling details more easily to facilitate mapping.

B) Adjust the Dungeon's design to fit online play - that would mean creating a more content-dense environnement with less negative space (empty rooms) and a simpler layout, essentially getting rid of the mapping challenge in favor of a more flavorful and choice-heavy environnement, although it would mean losing some old-school aspects that I know can work in the right conditions. The question remains, can these conditions be met with online play?

C) Keep It That Way - Dungeons are confusing, maze-like places. There are multiple approaches to mapping, maybe encouraging a node-based mapping process on the players' part, focusing on abstraction, may help. Perhaps there are threads or blog posts about communicating map information that I should be reading. Or perhaps a certain adaptation time is necessary and more play with the same people will lead to a better understanding of this kind of info. Time will tell.

One More Thing
Castle Redvald is an open table, dungeon-focused campaign.
Everyone plays as a human adventurer, with no magic or demi human abilities available to save the players from their own foolishness. The tone is relatively light-hearted although the setting's reality is one of harsh and grim sword & sorcery. Character death is likely, and everyone starts as a 1st level nobody. The rules are my domain, and to play you only need to know how to roll and read a d20 and a d6. I try to run games at least every other week, and might up the pace if more people get involved.

If you would like to explore Castle Redvald, hit me up on WeMe (Tanaël G./Wizard Lizard), Google+ (Wizard Lizard) or Discord (Wizard Lizard #0408).

Melsine/Lu drew her own play report too
 

1/15/19

Scourge of Tikbalang - Session Report & (Very) Short Review


This sunday, I ran Zzarchov Kowalski's Scourge of Tikbalang for a party of three - here's how it went!

This of course contains heavy spoilers for the adventure, so heh, you know.

The Player Characters
Everyone was part of the Obra Dinn's crew, an East India Company ship that somehow ended up lost in Polynesia. After a pirate attack and a terrible storm, they found themselves on a foreign beach, three survivors with nothing but rags, sand and alguae for equipment.

Soloman Syed (S), Homer Langstroth (A) & Nathan Peters (G)
 
Having already read the adventure, Lu decided to stick around as the crew's Unnamed Dog.

What Happened?
• Upon waking up, Homer and Nathan went into survival mode immediately and wanted to craft some basic gear and go find some water to boil and hopefuly some edible fruit, while Soloman, with his measly 5 CON, could barely manage to crawl under a palm tree for comfort. Climbing up a tree to survey their surroundings revealed a nearby village further up the beach, so the two englishmen grabbed their indian friend and walked there.

• Quickly discovered by the villagers, the PC were glad to see these were welcoming and even understood english, instead of the blood-thirsty savages they were expecting given the dark skin and strange tattoos of these strong and fair people. After enjoying some food and water, they got to meet with the village's Elder, who let them know of the Tikbalang Problem.

The Tikbalang Problem 
Two girls from the village were raped by a mythical folklore creature and they'll give birth to more Tikbalangs unless the creature is slain. The village might need to kill them to avoid having two more monsters, and nobody really wants that - plus, apparently they'll give birth to normal child if the original Tikbalang is killed.

As it happens, the Elder put a gold bounty on the monster's head, hoping that outsiders would deal with it to avoid anyone from the village getting hurt or worse.

The players, needing gold if they're ever going to get back home, agreed.

• They went around the village for the next two days, talking with everyone who was even remotely involved - two "witnesses", the two victims, the senile old woman who served as spiritual advisor, etc. What quickly transpired was that this was not a tale of monstrous rape, but something way more banal: the first "victim" was cheating on her betrothed and came up with the story of the tikbalang to protect herself from his wrath. The main witness and the village Elder figured it out and covered her with matching stories, since they did not want her to be shunned. The second victim is a teenager and pathological liar, who thought she'd get more attention by claiming to have also been attacked - she has no idea how sex works at all, in fact. Having figured out that the victim's boyfriend was hiding at the local abandoned gold mine, the party headed there to talk with him.

This covered about 3 hours of gameplay, extremely rich in character interaction - there were funny moments, dead serious moments, bittersweet and sad moments (playing an old woman who's slightly aware that she's losing touch with reality is heart-breaking). There was a lot of speculating and a lot of great social play.

What Happened Next?
In Game? Almost nothing - the party reached the boyfriend, learned of his plan to steal the head of a horse from a local pirate crew that is "resting" in a village close by, and pass the head as that of a Tikbalang since these animals can't be found in these islands, and then Nathan decided he wanted to kill the guy for making him waste his time.

Out of Character, this is the point when everyone was now certain that this was a story of adultery, superstitious paranoia and social damage control gone wrong. There is no monster, no true evil, only people being people. And this meant that any choice the players made reflected way more strongly on their own views and opinions on what was right than with a clear-cut fantasy situation. The next twenty minutes were thus dedicated to the players debating more-or-less strongly about the right course of action, one of them being increasingly bothered by the fact that taking part in this meant at least one of these:

A) Violence on a Horse
B) Protecting an adulterer and fooling her cuckold
C) Betraying the trust of said adulterer and seeing both lovers killed

And that worse: not taking part in it at all would still lead to tragedy.

Sadly, we didn't have enough time for so much debate and in the end, since noone had reached an agreement, we had the end the one-shot without actually seeing a resolution to these events.
The possibility of a follow-up session has been raised, but for that we'd need the players to actually reach a consensus first.

So, That's it?
Yeah. It was a great session in my book: not only were the first hours very fun and fast-paced (plus there was almost no dice rolling besides reaction rolls and a short encounter with a wild hog in the jungle) but even the end, where sparks flied and suddenly the fictional world was really alive and real as everyone had to pitch in their very serious opinions to solve the crisis (Nathan wanted to kill a guy!), while not appropriate in the middle of the game, was an interesting end to the game. Nothing feels rewarding for a Referee more than players who actually care about what's going on in the game.

At the Debrief, all involved said they had had a great time, and everyone being friends before being gamers, there was no actual issue with how the game ended.

Scourge of Tikbalang - What Do I Think?
I love Zzarchov Kowalski's writing - it's terse and informal, but evocative. It makes you want to run his adventures, and it immediately strikes images into your head. Your prep happens by itself while you read his stuff. Information is easy to find and well-organized, I didn't need to take any notes or refer to the adventure during the game after reading it twice in the week before the game. The few illustrations are like his writing - evocative yet "simple", with only enough details to get your imagination running. I think every adventure should be written as system-neutral, with stuff like "Armor as Leather (High DEX)" for stats. Referees can come up with the details, and it leaves more space for interesting stuff - if, as a Ref, you can't actually come up with that stuff, you don't have enough experience to run other people's modules - go invent stuff from scratch for a few years first, you'll learn better this way. Don't even read modules. Stay away from them.

Obviously the themes involved may create SERIOUS BUSINESS reactions from people, as the end of the one-shot illustrates well. If you're playing with grown-ups, worst case scenario, discussions may get heated for a short while, but it shouldn't get too bad. Again, obviously, don't run this for kids or people who might get seriously upset by twice fictional rape or adultery. Other than that, it shouldn't be much of a problem.

I give it 4 out of 5 horse heads - as always with Zzarchov, it leaves me wishing for some bigger project from him. Please Mr. Kowalski, make some kind of sourcebook or megadungeon in your human and strange world. I'd buy it.

1/14/19

Underground Adventures PDF & Other Useful Stuff!

I figured, since I'm often talking about D&D/OD&D and it's not exactly a "full" game, in the sense that it begs to be modified in various fashions, I should release my own D&D-thingie for people to judge, laugh at, and hopefuly steal ideas from.

I'm terrible at blog post formatting, so here's a PDF with a 7 pages "Player's Handbook" for my pet D&D game, Underground Adventures. It is not exactly a game proper, but not exactly just a set of house rules either, and is intended for anyone interested in playing games at my table.

The actual referee procedures are in my head as I've never managed to muster the patience to write them down in a proper and orderly fashion. I will probably make one or a few posts covering these.

Rules for
 & other Fantasies

Here are things that did not make it into the PDF but are still very relevent to my D&D. 
Some of these are well-known, others are more obscure and might fit your game. 
I'm including source for everything, too.

Quick Character Generation - From Jeff Rients' Xylarthen's Tower (free OD&D adventure).
Here's the thing: if you're a newbie, you roll a 1st level character. Because that's how you learn the game. But if you've already got experience with this kind of stuff, then why treat you like a newbie? 
I also like it because this way I can make use of the Prime Requisite stuff at CharGen and disregard it when awarding XP (who wants to gain less XP after a hard day's work?)

You can click on it to make it bigger, I think.
 
Seven Voyages of Zyrlathen's Zero Hit Point Table by Oakes Spalding
You can get the whole game for cheap on DriveThru and it is very good. 
I sometimes use this table when I want player-characters to really feel the pain of getting to 0HP without systematically murdering them.

Ditto.

The Good Hits, Bad Misses Chart from Dragon Magazine! I don't know who did this version.
I think Critical Hits & Fumble are not a very balanced system, since players will, in the long run, end up getting way more crits inflicted to them than them to any singular creature, since players are always present in a fight, but the thing is...they're super fun and I don't really care for balance.

I like PNG but you can also click on the title for the PDF.

The Best Table from Maze Rats, by Ben Milton
They're all great but this one really screams "use me!"

There, converted the mechanics to D&D.



Tomorrow, I should get around to writing and posting the last session's report, which was a one-shot of Zzarchov Kowalski's Scourge of Tikbalang (spoilers: it is very good).

12/26/18

(Quick) Zoopunk with Maze Rats


A quick post to showcase my small hack of Maze Rats for Zoopunk.
I'm an advocate of changing as little as possible from a functional game and mostly focus on adjusting the flavor to fit a different setting, so there's not a lot of rules change.



Running "FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE" for my kid sisters this afternoon, and a Zoopunk game with my home group on Friday, so more Session Reports are to be expected.

12/23/18

Maze Rats - A Session Report


I initially planned to post the adventure I ran alongside the session report, but given my inability to properly numerize my notes and maps, I'll get around to re-doing the dungeon in a more digitally-palatable format later-on.

See?

Yesterday, I ran Maze Rats with a band of merry strangers who kindly took up on my offer to run a one-shot, mostly hailing from Discord OSR Servers. Since that was already taking me out of my comfort zone, I decided to go all-in and write down the adventure from scratch instead of running a module, which turned out to be a great exercise. The adventure itself is called Fleshgod Apocalypse (due to my discovery at the time of writing it) and will get its own post when I figure out a good way to put it all into a PDF.

The Adventurers
• Icy Tea played The Toad, a sleazy blackmailer armed with the "Wearying Tar" spell
• Sotto played Fred, a stoner housebreaker with burn scars, and an excellent tracker (Briarborn)
• CarlosH played Jim, a shadowjack armed with a crossbow
• And Fridgeghoul played Taatcher of the Roofrunners' Guild

Taatcher, by Fridgeghoul
What Happened?
 • After a rendevezvous near a giant black hole where the town of Ashfield should have been, the party short of Jim and Taatcher, whose players arrived later, headed for the Temple of Ooo, hoping to find some explanation for the disappearance of the entire town, and hopefuly, to kill monsters and steal their stuff.

• Inside the Temple's first room, they fought and killed a strange red silk monster looking like a mix between a grasshopper and a snail, which The Toad soberly called "The Spider Until Determined Otherwise". It bled pink technicolor blood and dissolved into a puddle of it after a short, but dangerous fight. They were joined by Jim around that time, too.

• The next few corridors led to some important decisions: to make a map, to take a few turns at random, to end back where they started and to stop trying to make a map. Whether I am terrible at giving direction or my tricky map design worked as intended is unclear to me.

They took the door out of area 2 into the corridors.
• Jim, who had arrived from another direction, suggested the party check out the cave area he noticed near the west side of the temple. There, they found a small passage leading to a field of wild blue flowers with soothing and relaxing properties - Fred was glad to collect a bunch of these - and at that point, I rolled an interesting result on the random encounters table: Rival + Other Monster (here, a Purple Priest that remained in the temple despite most of the others having fled from it). 

Silas Onymous is an adventurer I rolled a while ago - a flamboyantly dressed rude ex-secret police coward. In other words, the perfect rival for the PCs. I gave him two thugs and started talking to myself in silly voices: he had captured the priest and was now interrogating/torturing him for information, of which he didn't get any. Jim, being a Shadowjack, decided to sneak up on him and help his friends keep quiet to follow Silas and let him handle the busy work.
• Following the Rival Party through a few caves, the group discovered an entrance into the gardens behind the Temple, in which eerie-looking women clad in animal skins were frolicking and prancing around, almost looking more like animals than people. Silas hit one of his men for a dumb comment and it turned out to freak the "women" out - they turned their attention to the Rival Party and lunged at them, screaming in hysteria. Silas managed to get back inside the cave while his men got torn apart.
• I had a lot of fun playing Silas who had encountered the party in the past and stolen their stuff. I put myself in the shoes of a terrible "lawful evil" Thief PC who'd end up back against the wall and hated by his fellow PC after doing something stupid. It somehow worked because the party tried to use Silas as bait for the women instead of just stabbing him, which gave him a small window of opportunity to escape, which he used. And then he threw some firecrackers at the women to send them in berserk mode again while the party was crossing the area.
• I'm not too happy about how I handled that next bit: the harpy-women, who turned out to be raptors under a strange illusion spell that convinced both those who looked and the raptor themselves that they were in fact, pretty ladies in animal skins, tried to butcher the PC while they desperately crowbar'd the doors to get out. I wasn't sure how to go about this as the absence of a map on the players' side meant I didn't feel like it'd be fair if I gave the women the advantage, mobility-wise, despite them being written in my notes as quite fast. In practice, the players got a few rounds to figure out a solution, which for Fred involved nearly getting gutted but managing to get through a door, and for the other two to lose two crowbars and use the Wearying Tar spell to take care of most of the opposition. At this point, Taatcher joined the adventure and some Referee-encouraged metagaming allowed the party to get out of this terrible situation.
Fred was given some medication by The Toad ("take this, it will help you! Although do not ever take more than one per day, or you will die!") which in the world of Maze Rats is pretty damn strong, and the now crowbar-less "Crowbar Gang of Ashfield" went back at the entrance for another look at the various rooms they had missed.
Taatcher drank the pink blood of the snail monster-thing, and got an echo-y voice from it (Into the Odd's I Eat The Stuff table is great like that) and used it a few minutes later when a sprinting, muscular, naked horse-headed man came rushing at the party. He somehow successfuly(?) convinced the creature that he was Ooo, the Bloated God, and asked him to help the party find treasure.

• The Horse-Headed Man, who spoke of strange witchcraft such as "DNA engineering" and "Credit Cards" said he had no use for gold coins, and would gladly help the party - he led the group down a hole into a secret area under the temple, where he met with another of his kind. The two of them then led the party to a dangerous-looking Indiana Jones-style altar cave, where some kind of spaceship seemed to have materialized and crushed most cultists, with two turret sentries guarding the perimeter. The horse-headed failed to convince "the stupid mammals" to serve as a distraction, vaguely explained their complex situation (they were arrested by the Space Police for smoking pot which is illegal under Federation Law, and were trying to escape Space Prison by crashing a spaceship in this dimension) and eventually got shoved into the turrets' perimeter by the group and promptly died in a hail of bullets.

• Then Taatcher decided it might be a good idea to stick his hand out and see what it did - and got a hole in his hand.

We stopped about then since our time was running short and obligations had to be met.
I think I can safely say a good time was had by all, and I hope to further continue my exploration of running games with various people from the Internet.

Awesome Art by Fridgeghoul

Additional Post-Game Thoughts
 • I described the countryside and forest as snowy, yet the party was following a trail. Since we were going straight to the dungeon for convenience's sake, this being a one-shot, it didn't cause a problem - and I think the players didn't notice, either. This is the kind of blunders I need to work on to avoid in the future.

• Danger Rolls usually fail. Rolling 10+ on 2d6 is rare, even with a +1 or +2 bonus. I love this, because it's a way of mechanically enforcing the notion that you only roll for difficult things. If you start throwing useless or "medium difficulty" rolls for things all the time with this system, your players are going to get pissed off and the characters are going to be failing a lot.

• Danger Rolls usually fail. I just realized that this means you can modulate when to use them to establish the level of competency of adventurers depending on the genre and tone you're going with. With french RPG Naheulbeuk, in which adventurers are depicted as blundering idiots and often unlucky bastards, Maze Rats would fit like a glove - just make adventurer rolls for more tasks than usual, and the results are bound to be hilarious. On the other hand, were I to run Traveller using a mix of TC and Maze Rats rules, I'd probably roll even less often than in a Fantasy setting, considering the level of expertise characters in the Classic Traveller Ur-Setting are expected to have.

• I'm still unsure about my own stance on mapping and orientation-based challenges in adventure fantasy games. On the one hand, I love logistical challenges and understand the point of having empty rooms, strict time and book-keeping, and so on, but on the other hand, I'm ready to skip anything that gets bothersome and tedious at the table. I've tried the usage dice for light sources for a short while, and it turned out to be boring more than anything else, at least to me. I like to tie random encounter rolls to entering rooms, making noise and 10 IRL minutes passing by, as this allows me to forego counting exact distances in exploration turns, so I might try loading the encounter dice ala "Hazard Dice" or "Luck Dice" in the future to take into account resource depletion.

D6 Adventure Roll
1 - Roll a Random Encounter
2 - 5 - Nothing
6 - Torch goes out, Lantern needs refilling, Stomachs growl, Mouths dry, etc.
Something like that, but I'd like it to feel more naturalistic while staying dead simple.

• Nobody died! In Maze Rats, where you start with 4HP and die at 0HP, with damage being the difference between the to-hit score and armor class. This is good. It means that the system is transparent or explicit enough to encourage the proper attitude towards danger. There is more room for dumb luck here than in Into the Odd where HP depletion is inevitable, and I gladly embrace this coupled with the notion that the HP system here is as deadly as OD&D (and stays in that range with the short HP progression).

12/17/18

OD&D Carcosa Session Report

Yesterday, we played some D&D!

Books Used
• Men & Magic + Original Edition Delta's Target 20 System
• Carcosa for LotFP by Geoffrey McKinney
• Carcosan Grimoire & Carcosa Rehab for Carcosa, by various people
• Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad Issues #1-3 by Wayne Snyder, Edgar Johnson & Adam Muszkiewicz
• Tomb of the Serpent Kings by Skerples (w/art by Scrap Princess)

Notable Rules
• Fighting-Men Only, and no Demihumans, but you get to be a weird color or a stranger from Earth.
That's it really. The rest was "by-the-book". 

Player-Characters & Their Friends
• Potiron, a Blue Man played by A.
• Bilmidou, a Purple Woman played by Lu'

And their brothers and sisters (they were all kidnapped before their eggs hatched and raised by a kindly but insane old couple in the desert south-west of the Silken Conclave, where Ur-Hadad stands), a bunch (7 in total) 0-level men and women of various colors.

What Happened?
• After the kindly couple passed away one night, the now-orphans decided to leave their home cave and learn about the world, and walked towards the city at the edge of the desert that their parents warned them against - for all cities are corrupted and blasphemous!

• There, they saw strange beings: ape-men in high-tech pajamas, snail-men nobles carried by countless slaves everywhere on huge thrones, and a lot of street artists and cultists.

• After thinking about and giving up preemptively on joining the assassins' guild, the orphans decided to join a cult and try to get money this way. One in particular sounded good enough, a bunch of weirdoes in masks and robes talking about "The Stoned Demiurge" and "The Path of the Evening Star". On a misunderstanding, the 3 INT Potiron made a sort-of faux-pas and found himself carried by the mob around the cultists and brought at the feet of the Hierophant who led the whole bunch. When the high priest touched Potiron, he gave him a strange vision, which convinced Potiron that they were the right cult for him and his family.

• Having followed the mob of newly converted to a luxurious temple in hopes of "some good truth, or at the very least some free stuff", the party surrendered all of their wordly possessions for grey robes and the promise of a "purifying ritual" which they happily agreed to.

• The ritual turned out to be a big orgy in hot baths with LSD-skinned Ulfire concubines and all the newly converted, which was very pleasant but confusing, for the psychedelic skin of the Ulfires is particularly potent in its effects. A few hours later, the two PC found themselves in an underground cell, being interrogated by the Hierophant about the vision!

• It turned out, the whole thing is supposed to be a scam, and what Potiron described somehow angered the priest as he was now convinced they were spies sent from another rival cult. This led to a few days of torture. After which the priest came back and apologized for his mistake, explaining that there was another explanation: Potiron was the Chosen One, and as such he should be sent on a quest with his family to retrieve an artifact for the cult, proving his worth by braving a dangerous and ancient tomb to get it. The party had no choice in that matter, as refusal to pursue the quest would mean Potiron was not, in fact, the Chosen One and should then be tortured to death.

• After being transported through the desert with hoods on their faces, the party was given back its gear and sent forth into the Tomb of the Serpent Kings!

The Tomb of the Serpent Kings!

• Half the party got knocked out by poisonous gases in the first room they explored.

• Then almost everyone left got crushed by a hammer trap at the first closed door.
Including the Chosen One.

• A few retainers awoke from their poisoned slumber and re-joined the party as PC ownership was switched around, and the remaining party members proceeded with extreme caution.

• At this point, Lu' figured out that this was a dungeon she had already explored, and triumphantly found her old map of the place! As the party was mocking Fate for being a cheap bastard who re-uses dungeons, they stumbled upon a skeleton holding the scroll upon which the newly found map was scrawled.

• They eventually found a massive room with a hanging chain and broken pillars, got spooked, and left before realizing what was in there.

• A lot of trapped rooms were cleverly dealt with, now that the party was in "dungeon mode" after the horrible and quick deaths.

• A Skeleton Jelly was met and the party spent about 15 minutes trying to kill it in various ways before deciding to tie it up with rope to one of the many snake-men statues in the dungeon.

• Some more traps were dealt with, little loot was pilfered, and everyone was pretty tired, so we called it a night, hoping to finish the dungeon next time!

Thoughts
• Delta's Target 20 system is the best combat algorythm AND the best way to handle saving throws.
I was worried the adding of secret AC might slow things down, but it turns out that it's the easiest way I've seen so far for determining whether an attack is a hit or miss, and I've been a fervent defender of both THAC0 and Attack Matrices in the past (not that there's anything wrong with AAC but it doesn't feel natural to me).

I really like not having Wizards and Elves and Dwarfs. It makes the game feel much more "fantasy" as in, anything can happen, magic is mysterious, monsters are weird, etc. I'm glad I stopped caring about typical expectations after reading a lot of posts from Planet Algol.

I love humans, and I love weirdly coloured humans. I think it's a fun way of differentiating the human cultures without resorting to "faux vikings and faux indians" kind of deal like in old-school Sword & Sorcery settings. Here colour is tied to very broad and simple clichés, but they're just that, clichés.

• While OD&D remains an excellent system, abandoning tradition and feeling good about it made me think about maybe using Maze Rats in the future, or maybe a simplified version of it (I'm not a fan of Paths or skill systems in general and prefer these things to be discovered through play). Or maybe I'll hack OD&D and strip it out of some more things until it fits my playstyle entirely.

12/14/18

Wizard Lizard's Game from Ten Years Ago

I recently turned twenty-two, which made me think about my early games.

When I was twelve, I had all the time and more to focus on extensive world-building. Nowadays, my attention span is much more limited when it comes to these kind of things: most things D&D-related that aren't playing the game (from either side of the screen) feel like work.

So here's a set of house rules and other bits of lore from me ten years ago. I'm a sucker for OD&D's presentation so I'll use the 3LBB format to organize things.

Any rule-stuff left unspecified means you just follow your usual rule for it. I ran AD&D 2e back then (without having read the rules, I only knew the mechanics that I saw in-play from being a PC in other peoples' games), now I run OD&D.

Character Types

FightersAt 2nd level and higher, kill as many 1-1HD foes (goblins) as your level in a round.
That's replacing the usual multiple attack rules for Fighters and counts as the round's attack.

Paladins
As Fighters and you also get to heal your level worth of HP each day, and you get Cleric spells as if you were a 1st level Cleric once you reach 7th level. No alignment or special stat required, but a Paladin must be chosen by Fate and the Gods - what they then do with their powers is for them to decide.

Clerics
As usual. Clerics of Aëdamphia follow the Path of Harmony and its nine virtues. Clerics of Shaq'Tar are called Imams, follow the One God and have no weapon restrictions. Clerics of the Empire are direct servitors of the Emperor, who channels God (not the same as the One God, but not the Judeo-Christian one either).

Rationalists
In the Godless City, over the Edge of the World, there are no Gods: the High Council of Philosophers know of the Gods' real nature and so outlawed belief in them in an attempt to reduce their power and hold over the race of men. Rationalists are warriors trained to resist magic (10% per level), track down Clerics and Cultists of all kind, and kill them.

Wizards
As usual, but making your own spells is encouraged. Any 1st level Wizard can create new spells with time and some chance (percentile chance to create a spell established based on the spell's power and efforts involved in creating it).

Witches
Part of a secret and ancient order dedicated to murdering the Immortals who control and drive humanity by taking the shape of their "Gods", they are an all-women, all-Wizards group with fabulous power but a very short lifespan (about twenty years). Almost all hunted to extermination by the Emperor (one of the Immortals whose stance on humanity is that it is too foolish to be left to its own devices).

Thieves
I'd use the Delving Deeper v4 Thief.

Origins & Race

For humans, pick an Origin: Empire, Aedamphia, Western Kingdoms, Shaq'Tar, or the Edge.

You can also be an Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit (all as usual),

Gnome (they're made of salt so they die from exposure to water, otherwise treat as dwarves that are very tech-savvy, practice slavery, and hate dwarves), 

Troll (they're huge furry beasts with long tusks. They are non-violent pacifists and live in tribal societies),

Faeries (hand-sized little boys and girls with bat and insect wings that were manufactured a long time ago by some creator - disposition towards their presumed originator is a sort of political stance for them. They have innate magic and all get one at-will spell (completely random) but they die if their wings are cut or if kept in captivity for more than a day and a night).

Or a Khajit from Shaq'Tar and yes these are the Elder Scrolls cat-people. Again, I was 12.

Free Men were strange, willingly insane men and women from the desert in the Edge of the World, who believed that to be truly free, they needed to abandon all and any structure, including the common trappings of society and humanity such as law, morals or even their survival instinct. In a world where belief becomes metaphysical law (which is what granted the Immortals their powers over men - centuries of "teachings" to keep their place as the rightful leaders and gods of the world), an absolute lack of any code made the Free Men into somewhat of a bug. They would not age or die, for they truly did not believe in these concepts, not that it did them a whole lot of good. Player-Characters from this "race" had left because they couldn't completely abandon their humanity, and were entirely motivated by one obsessive and strange drive which altered reality around them. I remember two PC Free Men: one was convinced that the ground was another shackle, and slowly changed into a bird-person over time, and was driven to free all from slavery in any form. The other was absolutely terrified of the ground but only cared to not touch it directly, and didn't see it as an attack on his freedom. He also had some weird psychic powers but I don't remember the details.

Character Alignment

Back then, I used AD&D 2e nine-alignments but the definitions felt too manichean for me, so I established that these definitions were the subjective ones people within the setting used - there were no empirical good or evil, because I thought that would destroy any chance of having meaningful moral and ethical dilemmas in the game. No alignment languages, either.

Languages

One for each region (Aedamphia, Empire, Western Kingdoms, Shaq'Tar, the Edge), plus a trade language that hailed from the City on the Crossroad, Laëlith.

Equipment

Use the AD&D equipment charts. Everything needs to be purchased, including clothes.