Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Campaign Developments

Since it's been months since the last time I posted, and my very well be a long time before I next post, here are a couple of "status of the campaign" notes.

  • As of 3 or 4 sessions ago, the players have really begun to take the "mapping the Barrowmaze" project seriously. They have a pretty accurate map with two entrances on it.
  • The party is trying to find what in the Barrowmaze printed product is called "The Fount of Law". I've turned it into the very rare fruit-orb of a tree from the closest town. This is a tree whose leaves contain poetry and lyrics and songs and cryptic information and whatnot, and there's an ancient order that maintains archives of everything that comes from it. They say that a knight came stole the fruit hundreds of years ago, but that they recently read that the orb would soon be found and would end a great evil (the Pit of Chaos!!!). Also, they helpfully gave the party a divining stick (like what people use to find water) which will lead them to the orb. It's really speeding things along. 
  • The archives management has sent some guards to help the party find the orb. There are usually 3 or 4 players, and 3-5 npcs. It's been going well.
  • They have a pet cat named Victoria who lives at the campsite. 
  • They've started running into members of the cult of Thanatos (reskinned Cult of Set, from the print version (so that I could connect all of this with the Caverns of Thracia someday)). One of the NPCs speaks a little Ancient Thracian, and they have a disguise...

The Allure of Subsystems

Since late last year- November, 2011 maybe? I've been running a pretty straight LoTFP game. It's been a really great way to introduce people to roleplaying. You just don't have to know that much about the game mechanics to participate as a character, and there's not a lot of opportunity for min/max style play.

Lately, though, I've been finding myself drawn to incorporating additional little subsystems to the game.  In the past two sessions, we've added two house rules:

  1. The advantage/disadvantage mechanic from the D&D next playtest
  2. The Table for Avoiding Death
1. I've actually only read about the advantage/disadvantage mechanic secondhand (sorry, I don't remember where, but there was a whole amazing statistical analysis), so I may not have it quite right. If not, I like my version. I've always played that if you're in a tactically advantageous situation, you get slight bonus in your attack roll (+1 or +2 to the d20 roll), and vice versa. My understanding of the way that the advantage/disadvantage rule works is that, if you have the advantage, you just roll 2d20 and take the better roll, and if you have the disadvantage, you roll 2d20 and take the worse roll. 

I've really been enjoying this kind of dice-based (instead of basic math based) stuff lately, and although it hasn't come up a whole lot, the players seem to like it as well. It has the benefit of taking a little more power out of my hands (deciding on what modifier to give them/the enemy), taking the responsibility of consistency out of my hands, and delivering straight up dice rolls to them. Also, it's hella more dramatic to have your fate depend on the roll of the dice than on the cold numbers. We used this in the last session when the party was shooting arrows down a long Barrowmaze hallway at a fleeing necromancer and it was great.

2. I downloaded The Table for Avoiding Death from Hack & Slash months ago and forgot about it pretty quickly- it seemed like a lot of complexity to suddenly drop. It caught my eye a couple of weeks ago, though, and I liked it. Play has been increasingly combat-heavy lately- the party is getting stronger and more able to deal with the Barrowmaze, and they recently acquired a shit ton of retainer-npc's. Also, there really might be real-life consequences for me if one player's character dies. If/when??? she does go, I want it to be because she first had her helmet smashed, then her arm gets broken or whatever. She, and probably everyone, deserves a drawn-out, visceral death, not unconsciousness and mechanically disconnected inevitable bleedout in a couple rounds.
Now I'm thinking about adding a new thing. Full disclosure- picked up the Dungeon Crawl Classics hardcover yesterday and I just wanna use it. That's definitely its own post. 

But there's actually a game-driven reason to add a new subsystem.

What with all the combat in the game recently and with the characters getting a little tougher, they've been getting a little fancier with the fighting moves. So- in a fight with Fossil Skeletons, Nyrad the Dwarf wanted to break their knees and hinder their movement and attacks. You know, the usual. I think I did something like gave the skeleton's a saving throw to avoid getting their knees broken (after a successful to-hit roll), but it got me thinking. I'd love to have a more reliable way to handle "moves" in combat. Also, Nyrad's player said that he was bringing his axe down on a ghoul to try and cleave it in half, vertically. He rolled a natural 20 and it was amazing.

What I don't want to do is have discreet, circumscribed moves, as in 4th edition. I don't want the dwarf to look over his character sheet, see the "Courageous Melee Strike", or whatever, and choose that. Cause I don't know what that is, but it's not based in what's happening in the game. I want to be able to adapt to whatever the players want to do with a consistent, reliable system, much like the advantage/disadvantage system.

So the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG includes a "Mighty Deeds of Arms"system. Here's how they describe it: "The goal was to create a rules system that encouraged situation-specific freedom without creating a lot of cumbersome rules." Perfect! In DCC, a fighter or dwarf will be successful in any combat "move" if they roll a 3 or higher, they start with a d3 and they can roll bigger dice as they level up. Other saving throws and whatnot may apply. 

A proposal: introduce the Might Deeds system to LoTFP, disregarding the damage and to-hit bonuses that the Deed die usually comes with (didn't mention that above). Allow everyone to have a chance to performing a deed, but only dwarves and fighters go up in the dice chain. Similarly to how LoTFP gives everyone a base +1 attack bonus, but fighters increase. So Fatima the 3rd level wizard can do a fancy move with her rapier if she rolls a 3 on a d3, and she'll never have a better chance. Nyrad the 3rd level dwarf would roll a d5. 

A separate proposal: handle all this with the LoTFP skill system, which is hella flexible, as demonstrated on Dreams in the Lich House today. All classes start with one pip in the "Mighty Deeds" skill. Fighters (and/or Dwarves) get a point each level which they can allocate either to the skill or to their attack roll. 

I'll probably try experimenting with both, or try some combination. To make it all more confusing, LoTFP already has it's own system of customizing fighting styles, with the Press and Defensive Fighting options. Hmm. 

I'll just post this and let it marinate a bit.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On Golemetry

At the moment, I'm reading "Iron Council", by China Miéville, a really amazing and inventive writer. One of the main characters, Judah, is a Golemist- a thaumaturge (magic-user) who is a talented creator of golems.

Here's Judah being lectured by an golemist academic: "We see structure, and in pointing it out we see mechanisms and grasp them, and we twist. Because patterns are asserted not in stasis but in change. Golemetry is an interruption. It is a subordinating of the static IS to the active AM." (Pg. 205 of my edition)

And here's Judah in action: "[Judah] shoved his hand among the cadavers and barked. There was a fermentation as the world's energy was channelled, the moment bowed and swelled and spat out strangeness. And the corpse-pile stood in a new configuration, a golem of flesh still twitching as the nerves within it died...It walked quickly with Judah behind it, energies spitting from him, connecting him to his monstrosity with an uncanny funniculus."

So, really you should just read the book. It's amazing.

Beyond that though, I find it very inspiring for D&D. I would love to play a golemist like Judah! What's great about it is that you'd have to work with whatever was around you. That means that you'd have to pay attention to what the DM is describing, and actively extrapolate in your own imagination. It's kind of the same reason that I love it when players have lots of rope and grappling hooks and crowbars and whatnot. If you have a rope and a grappling hook, there's no automatic solution to any problem there, they solution only comes when you interact with the environment- if you have a grappling hook, you're going to be asking about any protruding rocks, roots and whatever. That means that you have to validate the shared, imagined world in a way that you just don't if what you have is a magic missile or a sword.

What would it be like to be a golemist in, say, the Barrowmaze? I think it would go something like this (ignoring any kind of dice rolls or levels):
You see some skeletons walking toward you down the hall.

Ok, I'm making a golem!

What are you making it out of? What's this golem going to be like?

Hmm well you said that this hallway has flagstones on the floor and kind of stone blocks making up the walls, right? And some roots hanging down in places, and water dripping? How about this golem is formed so that blocks from the walls assemble themselves into a body, the flagstones hang on the front and back like armor, and the roots wind themselves around the whole thing to hold it together?

If you're a Golemist, using your regular ability reinforces the shared imagination of the dungeon hallway and makes it more real. At the same time, you the player get to put your stamp on your magic in a way that you don't often get a chance to. The DM then gets to decide how this "intervention" will affect the environment- could any of those stone blocks that make up the wall potentially cause a cave-in? What are those roots connected to, anyway? Is there anything under the flagstones?

Also, as a DM, you get to change what the dungeon looks like the next time players come that way:

I'm walking down the hallway.

You see that there's a section ahead of you where the flagstones are missing and there's just muddy earth underneath. The whole area looks like bits have been ripped away.

Oh right- Judah fought those skeletons here!

Cool, right? I'm not sure how I would integrate this into an ongoing campaign, but if any of my players are reading this, I'm totally down to work with you on creating a Golemist character class!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Play Report #5

The party was composed of:
Fatima, a wizard and at this point a veteran of the the campaign
Gearheardt, a specialist (that's a thief/rogue type in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rules)
Brother Pardue, a cleric. I grabbed Brother Pardue from the premade henchmen section of the Barrowmaze book. It had been a while since the player had last played, and I lost his last PC! It was a very sad realization. The poor guy had been created in 4th Edition as a Dragonborn and had been grandfathered into the old school rules we're using.
Brass the Sellsword, a fighter, also from the Barrowmaze book, who was played by a friend/relative visiting from out of town. He didn't arrive until close to the end of the night.

Fatima, Gearheardt and Brother Pardue started the session camping in the cold, misty hills near the main entrance to the Barrowmaze. There was some reminiscing about the last time Fatima and Gearheardt were together, when they investigated the crypts of an ancient death cult under a frozen mountain. Some difficult and maybe indefensible moral calls were made that day, and now there's a zombie horde up north. Fatima said, "I saw what I was made of and it was not that great. Now I'm just waiting for the sun to explode." She is also gathering all the treasure and magic she can get her hands on, I think.

In any case, the group decided to see if they could find some gold and glory in the Barrowmaze. There's a shaft in the main barrow that leads down to the complex, and a tripod at the top dangles a length of rope into the darkness. Fatima knows from experience that this is the main entrance, that it's silent down there, and that I roll wandering monster checks when they make any significant noise. She looked into long shaft and yelled "Hey scumbags!" Then she lowered herself down.

As she neared the first room, she was able to see in the torchlight...a skeleton! A creepy skeleton, wearing a tattered, hooded robe. Bits of skin clung to its bones and seemed to crawl and move. Fatima reported the situation to her compatriots up the rope, and Gearheardt decided to start climbing down as soon as Fatima let go of the rope.

Fatima jumped off of the rope, landed rather clumsily, and ducked an oddly graceful swing from the skeleton (the technical name is huecuva- freaky undead monster whose touch causes a flesh-eating disease that will kill you within a couple days. A minor issue I'm having is describing these different types of undead in ways that makes them clearly distinct to the players.) Fatima drew her rapier, took a stab and missed. Gearheardt was down the rope by this point and he attacked with his dagger, also missing. After another round in which everyone missed, Brother Pardue arrived, did a cinematic roll, and blasted the thing apart with a blow from his mace! It was wild and statistically improbable- he needed to roll a dexterity check and an attack roll and rolled a 1 and a 20- the best he could possibly have done.

After celebrating and writing down experience points, they walked through the archway in the east wall of the room. Fatima had previously opened many of the doors that led off the hallway and wanted to continue on. They opened the door at the end of the hallway, which was crazily intricately carved. Someone posted an image that I used to an OSR blog a few weeks ago, and I downloaded it. Unfortunately I don't remember who, but if someone knows I'd love to credit them.
The door looked kind of like this.

Fatima opened the door and found a large room with candelabras on the walls and a spiral mosaic on the floor. Gearheardt found that if he stared at the pattern for a minute, it seemed to spin, almost like it would pull him in. Fatima grabbed some candles and they left. In the next hallway, Gearheardt found a pair of earrings and a magical silver dagger in an alcove in the wall, which makes two magical daggers found in undead-filled crypts for him. He gave the earrings to Fatima, and was a little hurt when she didn't put them on at first.

They found a room whose walls were covered in idyllic scenes of nature, done in beautiful tiles. They were very suspicious and spent a while breaking the tiles off the walls. They were concerned about the noise that they were making, so Brother Pardue put a net that he was carrying on the floor to catch tiles so they wouldn't smash. Very smart.  Unfortunately for them, there was nothing behind the tiles and they had just destroyed one of the only beautiful things in the whole dungeon.

On the next door, they noticed a message scrawled: "TOBLF!" Luckily, they remembered the code from the week before, so they knew that in the next room they could expect a "SNAKE!". They cautiously entered the room, which was large and lined with pillars. They figured that the snake was hiding in a pile of rubble in the opposite corner- the one with gold glinting in it. Fatima led the charge with a magic missile, which wasn't enough to kill it. As the snake slithered within striking distance, Gearheardt shot a crossbow bolt at it, which missed, and Brother Pardue attacked with his sling, also missing. At this point, Brass the Sellsword came outta nowhere (the player had just arrived, in the middle of the fight) and took a whack with his sword, which wasn't able to break through the snake's tough skin. The snake struck twice, going after Brass, who was closest. It missed both times, and Fatima hit it with a web spell. After that it was stuck to the floor and everyone hacked away at it until it was dead. Fatima felt pretty bad about the whole thing, but everyone was cheered up by the 1,435 gold pieces that they found in the pile of rubble. Split four ways that's like...a whole lot of gold. And also experience points, since I do XP for gold. Gearheardt leveled up! He's now level 2. It was a proud moment. Fatima went back and crossed out "TOBLF" with chalk, and also filled a water skein with snake venom.

They continued up the hallway and heard a faint Dwarf voice crying for help from behind a door! After some debate, they went into the room, where they saw an ominous demonic altar and an open pit trap in front of it. Gearheardt looked into the pit and saw a miserable Dwarf at the bottom. He informed the party that his name was Arnd Cobblestone and that he had been searching for treasure but that when he fell into the pit, his party had abandoned him. They were skeptical, but decided to rescue him anyway.

He then told them of some highly interesting things: Deep in the Barrowmaze is something called the Pit of Chaos, which spawns monsters and may be part of why this quiet burial ground has become such an evil place. Arnd says that they spoke with the ghost of a holy warrior who was part of an expedition to close the Pit, and that they carried an orb with them. It's lost somewhere in the Barrowmaze now...

Brass wanted to know what the deal was with the statue. Arnd informed him that his companions had been under the impression that if one put 500 gold pieces worth of treasure into the offering bowl in front of the statue, it would animate and answer a single question. He also told Brass that the statue was of Nergal, the former god of the underworld. Brass said, "Former is always better! You always want to talk to the former mayor or councilman- they know where the bodies are buried!". Brass's player is a journalist.

Everyone was convinced, and they placed an offering in the bowl. The shadows deepened and a strange buzzing sound rose in the room. The gold went up in smoke and the statue growled, "Ask your question". They ended up asking it where the orb is (the one that can close the Pit of Chaos). They learned that it was in a tomb in the Barrowmaze to the south.

And then it was time for them to leave! Almost. Fatima stopped on her way out to cut her some giant snake steaks and grab some large scales for decoration. They're now back to camping in the hills, which is where whoever plays next time will start.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Play Report #4

A play report!

So the game was just Fatima and Nyrad the Dwarf. They started out camping in the increasingly chilly (it's November in fantasy world) hills near the Barrowmaze. After some discussion about the wisdom/fun of investigating the cult-infested town of Wandesford and causing trouble, they decided to delve back into the Barrowmaze instead and try to find some treasure and maybe slay some undead monsters. After climbing down the rope in the spooky barrow, they took the first left and found themselves facing a door. They noticed that the door had writing on it, and that there was an incongruously dark flagstone in front of it. Here's what was written on the door:


Wanna try cracking the code? It's not arbitrary, it's systematic...

I found a few codes in a DnD book a couple weeks ago and I thought it'd be fun to find some puzzles. Fatima and Nyrad set to work trying to solve it, but Nyrad's impatience got the better of him and he just opened the door and walked into the next room. As soon as he passed the threshold of the door, a stone wall slammed down from the ceiling behind him, separating him from Fatima. At the same time, a door at the other side of the room opened and three skeletons ran through it! Luckily, Nyrad is fearless and handy with an axe. And I rolled really badly. While this fight was going on, Fatima was desperately trying to solve the code. Eventually, and very grudgingly, she used a "Read Languages" (Comprehend Languages? something like that) scroll that she had found way back in the Tower of the Stargazer to understand the code, which explained that there's a trap and how to reset it. The stone wall slid back into the ceiling and she joined the fight, which the team quickly won. After their victory, they were really furious, I think partly because they had to use magic to decode the message, and they took it out on the skeletons. They broke all the bones, spit on them, and generally disrespected their foes.

I think other than that...they opened one door to a room which had a whole bunch of giant rats in it- like, three feet tall, Rodents of Unusual Size- and quickly shut it again. They found a few tombs which had been emptied or looted...they found a place in the hallway where someone or something had broken through a room into the hallway. They passed a door-sized spot in the hallway which had been bricked over (looked like a sledgehammer would break through...) but elected to not mess with it.

As it started getting toward the time when we were going to call the game, they decided to walk back to the entrance and get back to camp. As they began to walk, they heard the shuffling, slobbering noises of hungry zombies behind them! They ran the rest of the way and the zombies were unable to climb the rope to follow them.

I think that's more or less everything that happened. They may have each found some amount of treasure, but nothing world-shaking.

Play Report #3

We had 4 players on Tuesday, and a few people were meeting for the first time, which was fun. Dog the Fighter returned for his second game ever, Nyrad the Dwarf returned after a brief hiatus, Lesimorat the Elf returned after a long hiatus, and Troola the Specialist (with her specialties being languages and sneak attack, so far) made her debut in her first D&D game ever.

The crew started in The Sneaky Weasel, a seedy tavern in a rough mining neighborhood (Flyside, stole the name from China Mieville) in the city of Bittersedge. Dog made a little money betting on the local game of "Pin the Viper"- it's a really unsafe spectator sport. A random roll on the "where was _ last game" table (I haven't gotten around to making this table so I used the carousing table from Jeff's Gameblog) revealed that Nyrad the Dwarf, while on a drunken binge, called on an old dwarf god of ill-omen- and got an answer. Now he owes this dwarf demon big, and has been tasked with a quest to restore The Old Miner's reputation. He's supposed to go to this lonely mountain up in the northwestern section of the map and investigate...(Yup, I'm subtly setting up Hammers of the God)

There was a long conversation about what the group's course of action should be. Nyrad was all for questing for the greater glory of his newfound god. Dog, having developed a bit of a taste for magical devices last game (he has a magical tuning fork) was intrigued by the idea of exploring the old tombs up north called the Barrowmaze. Lesimorat was depressed and drowning his sorrows. My understanding is that he's had a hand in some things that he's not proud of. He won't say just what, but he and Fatima both kinda flinch whenever someone mentions the zombie horde sweeping the far north...(they played Death Frost Doom a few months ago)

Dog also had some unfinished business in Flyside. Last game he had accepted a whole bunch of money to put a miners' union organizer out of commission. He and Fatima investigated the mines, found that the strike had begun because of a monster in the mines, and killed the monster. He was thinking about trying to infiltrate the militia and generally support the union, but ended up deciding to come clean to the miners about how he had taken money from the militia rep, Xennor. They didn't take the news that he had been paid to kill or discredit a union leader very well, and his drinks were no longer on the house. After that, it was clear that it was time for the crew to leave the bar.

Eventually they came to a consensus, or pretty close. Lesimorat was difficult to move. I don't remember exactly how they got him into the wagon/taxi to go to the docks, but I do know that Troola seemed about to drug him at one point (she started the game with some kind of fantasy narcotic and no one knows what it does)...and there was talk of knocking him out and letting him wake up en route. Really, there was a lot of giving Lesimorat one more drink to get him to stop putting up a fight throughout the night.

They arrived at the docks with the idea of hiring a ship to take them somewhere near Barrowmaze. Eventually they talked a ship's captain into giving them a ride and going a little out of his way to drop them off. Troola has a background as a shipwright and totally schooled everyone with her nautical knowledge. There was a bit of a misadventure when it was discovered that all of Lesimorat's stuff had been left behind. Some of them wanted to pay a victorian street urchin to guide them across town to the bar so they could get the stuff, but Lesimorat wanted to get it himself. The urchin ran off with some money and lost Nyrad when he tried to chase him down. They ended up going into town with one of the sailors who was getting provisions- to the "Bittersedge Bowl", which I think is what the big market should be called.

The ship was a fast one, and got them to the coast near Wandesford, close to the Barrowmaze, in just two days. They decided not to go into Wandesford, which, word has it, has been taken over by an evil cult.

Instead, they walked through the scrubby, hilly countryside northwest toward the barrows. I think on the first day they found the body of a recently killed priest, an inquisitor from the Order of the Blinding Light. Dog stole his holy symbol, thinking that if they wound up in Wandesford, they could pretend that they killed the priest themselves. They also found a letter on the body that revealed the priest's suspicion that the head of their order, Lady Lamorna, is a vampire! The players took the news in stride and kept on walking.

On the first night, one of the people on watch reported seeing a huge number of shooting stars falling to the Northwest. (From this Dungeon Dozen post)

On the evening of their second day of traveling, the party began to see barrows- ancient, artificial mounds of earth, some with clear entrances. They decided to bed down for the night. At some point during one of the night watches, someone saw a yellow light coming towards them. Everyone woke up and got ready for a fight, but the light didn't try to approach. When they walked towards it, it bobbed away. They ended up following it until they reached an overgrown pathway, lined with small stone cairns, which lead a large, central barrow. A stone door lay broken in half on the ground in front of the entrance. They could smell decay from inside. Naturally, they walked right in.

Inside, they found a tripod sitting over a hole in the floor. A rope lead down into the darkness. Troola courageously went down first, without a torch. Everyone else followed soon afterwards. There was an archway in one of the walls that lead to a long hallway. They started exploring. Pretty quickly, they realized that this place is going to be really easy to get lost in (it does say "maze" right in the title). They kept track of their progress by making marks in the doors.

Highlights of this expedition included: finding a couple of bodies skewered by spears and pinned to the wall of one room (Dog looted the bodies), totally slaying a couple of giant rats when everyone shot them with arrows, and getting a bunch of clay pots throne at them by a poltergeist. After that last one, they left the dungeon for the time being and are camping in the countryside not far away.

Play Report #2

It was a small game, with just Fatima the wizard and newcomer Dog the fighter. The night started in the Sneaky Weasel bar and inn, in a rough miner-town neighborhood of Bittersedge. After an unprofitable round of betting on a game the locals called "pin the viper" (from the Vornheim book), the two went outside for a smoke (I just realed that they were maybe assuming that you can't smoke in bars in Bittersedge? You totally can.) and got into a good ol' fashioned bar fight. A couple of drunk dudes mistook Dog's very polite attempts to bum some tobacco as evidence of his status as an elf spy. He protested, but Fatima was ready to fight anyway, and everyone else got involved pretty fast.

Except Dog and another guy, Xennor, the awesomely named militia agent. Turns out that the miners are on strike! Xennor asked Dog to put a major leader of the miners' union, Azanna, out of commission. Dog agreed to do it for 120 gold pieces, despite his union sympathies. My impression was that he hopes to double cross the militia. Meanwhile, Fatima kicked ass in the bar fight.

The next morning they met up with Xennor and followed him to the neighborhood courthouse, where he paid them a third of the fee upfront. They decided to go to the mines, which are northwest of town a little ways. Fatima went to the bakery to get some donuts and whiskey cause it's a strike line and they didn't have coffee.

After talking with a few of the miners in the strike line, they realized that it wasn't just a wage and hour issue- there are major workplace safety concerns. Miners recently broke through a wall into some kind of other cavern, or cavern complex. Soon after, miners went down there and didn't come back. One was heard to shout "I can't stop dancing!" before screaming and (apparently) dying. Dog and Fatima decided that they would go down and investigate, and a couple miners volunteered to guide them.

They found the spot- a large break in the wall led to a cave. They couldn't tell how large it was in the torchlight, and they could see that the floor was covered in water. Dog threw his grappling hook, tied to rope, into the water to test the depth. This disturbed something in the water, which began to ripple. A huge abomination of a monster burst out of the water toward the opening! It was an amoeba shape, reaching out with psudopods partly covered in fish scales, and with a centrally located swordfish beak (mouth? spike?). Fatima cast her "web" spell, which blocked the opening, while Dog optimistically offered the thing honey and told it that they brought gifts. It tried to stab through the web, and they both tried to whack at it. It then started gooily shimmying and blurping, hypnotizing Fatima, Dog, and their two guides. The four of them were forced to dance, unable to attack. The monster reached through the holes in the web and took the two miners by the hand, pulling them close. Meanwhile, Dog tried stuffing honey in his ears and Fatima held up a mirror to the monster in hopes of breaking the trance. The honey worked, and Dog was free.

He quickly rubbed honey in Fatima's ears as well, and they pulled the miners back from the monster. A melee ensued, in which the monster took a bunch of swings and stabs at them while they hit it with a magic missile, a club, burning oil, and then a dart to finish it off. Dog pulled the charred corpse through the hole and noticed a strange rectangular protuberance. He dug into the flesh and pulled out what looked like a jewlery box. He opened it (pointing it away from him just in case) and found a barnacle-encrusted tuning fork. The two were worried about what it might do, so refrained from hitting it for the moment.

They walked up to the mine's entrance, where they were greeted as heroes by the miners. Before the end of the night, they wanted to take the tuning fork to the magical academy in Bittersedge and see what they might have to say about it. They found a scholar named Conwenna Mapnadellek in the music department on the 18th floor of one of the improbably tall towers. She eventually persuaded them to let her try it, after establishing a number of safeguards, including a protective salt circle. Dog reached into the circle and banged the tuning fork, which caused all the knots in the room to undo themselves, chains to break, book bindings to fall apart, and the circle to open. The group reattached their clothes and Dog decided to hold on to this thing- it could come in useful sometime.

And that's where we left it! They're back in the Sneaky Weasel, where we'll start next time.

The rumors that Dog heard (I've created/am in the process of creating a big table of random rumors about the setting to give people some starting points. Some are true, some are not, others I'm not sure of yet):
-A group of merchants swear that they saw an ornate carriage traveling down the road in the moonlight. It was pulled by skeletal horses and there were no passengers.
-The captain of the pirate galleon The Butcher, Perran Rosemor, consults a crystal ball to know where his enemies and targets are.
-There's a halfling town south of Blackdene is becoming known for its artwork- incredibly lifelike paintings that always seem to depict terrified human sailors.

Play Report #1

The regular game got off to a good start a couple months ago with three players. Fatima the Wizard, Red the Specialist and Nyrad the Dwarf, explored a large inhabited island.

They picked up a traveling companion while walking through farmland south of a large swamp. Stopping for the night in a farmhouse in the small village of Dursey, they learned that it was recently attacked by lizardfolk from the swamp. Nyrad used his expert Dwarf masonry skills to repair a stone wall that was damaged in the attack. In the middle of the night they woke up to find that they were being robbed by their traveling companion. They kicked him out of the shed and in the morning both he and the characters' mule were gone.

They walked for two days, I think, and arrived at the edge of the swamp, which is called the Shallow Fields, on the evening of the second. They were worried about lizard attacks, so they set up a decoy camp where the swamp began, lit a fire there and took up positions a ways away to see what would happen. When lizardfolk showed up, the characters started shooting arrows at them. When the lizards charged, Fatima used a spell to turn the surface of the swamp in front of them into ice so that they slipped and fell, allowing the party to get enough attacks in to scare them off.

It's been over a week, so I'm not completely sure, but I think that despite suffering some pretty bad wounds, the party decided to press on and travel during the night. I think they were hoping to get through the swamp and out of lizard territory as soon as possible. At some point during the night, a gloom moth was drawn to the light of their torch. Two of the three were hypnotized by the shifting patterns of its wings, and they began to walk like zombies toward the monster. Fatima knocked the others to the ground and broke the spell. Then they hacked up the moth.

After some travel, they arrived at the town of Haxby to find most of the town in the process of executing a convicted heretic. They were a little leery of the proceedings, especially when they learned that the guy was being killed on the orders of a newcomer in town, a member of an inquisitorial monastic order, but they didn't interfere. I think some other things happened in Haxby, but they basically decided to not fuck with it and followed the road to the city of Bittersedge, arriving there in a couple days.

Which is where they are now!

Other things that they know:
There's a black dragon named Cruel Sue in the Wormwood, a forest east of the Shallow Fields and north of Dursey.
There's an evil cult operating in the village of Wandesford, across the sea (the sound?) to the north. They may be tied to a large burial complex under the barrows there.
The Pirate ship "Butcher" has been hassling trade all around the region. The Bittersedge militia will pay anyone really well for taking any part in their downfall.
Goblins have been growing stronger and more numerous. Everyone knows that they use the ancient prison of Stonehell, near Bittersedge, as a base.

The Map

 Here's the map of the whole campaign region, which I think I'm calling Bitter's Reach. I decided that players would be able to see the whole thing, rather than having to discover it piece by piece. This is partly because I think making it accessible give players a whole lot more agency and ability to make decisions, which leads to more player investment, and partly cause I spent forever on it and I'm proud of it. If you're following the OSR at all, you probably recognize some of the names- Stonehell, Barrowmaze, the Stargazer's Tower and so on. I also stole names from maps that Zak S. has posted, from China Mieville, Google maps and all kinds of other sources that I've forgotten about now. The PC's are now camping in the countryside near the Barrowmaze, if you're curious.

Campaign Pitch

This is the email I sent out to a couple dozen friends a few months ago, pitching a new campaign:

Hey everyone,

I'm starting a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and I would love for you to join me!

Short version:
It'll be biweekly with a rotating cast (you don't need to come every week) and all levels of experience are welcome. I would really like to have some good friends who have never considered playing try it out. I've been working on a campaign setting for a while now, and I've made a pretty huge map that should keep you occupied for some time.

The first two dates will be:
(redacted!). Remember, it's really fine if you can't do every week, just try it once! Feel free to tell a friend (there are people I wanted to send this to whose emails I don't have) and RSVP, it'll help me plan. I'd like to try to keep it to 6 players or less per session.

Long version:

Play whenever you can/want to- I'll run a game as long as there are at least two players. I think I'll try not having it on a consistent day of the week so that no one is missing out every time due to a scheduling conflict, though it will probably always be Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.

I'll be running the campaign "sandbox" style, which means that there will be a (gorgeous, homemade) map covering a large geographic area (a few hundred square miles) that you can mess around with. Your map will have a bunch of cities, towns, forests, ocean, rivers, and swamps. It'll also have something like 20 ruins, wizard's towers, abandoned mines, potentially haunted manor houses and other kinds of obvious dungeon adventure locations. There will also be various kinds of organizations that you can ally with, take advantage of, steal from, do favors for, take control of, and otherwise fuck with, in addition to killing monsters and taking their treasure. I may tell you about a couple, or you may just learn about them in-game. I'll give you a bunch of rumors to base your plans on, and you can go from there. I've been working on this for the past couple weeks, and I think there's really quite a lot to do. I've also stuck a bunch of adventures written by other people all over the map.

I've been wanting a regular DnD game in my life for a while, and I have the resources to do a consistent one at this point. I'd love to have some people who can play most weeks, and to be able to point friends who have never played before to the next date so they could jump in and try it out.

I want players who are able come to every game see their characters gain levels, make useful connections, take over territory and so on. The sandbox method enables this by having characters stick around after the adventure's over, and by not forcing any particular action on anybody.

I also want first-time DnD players to be able to jump in and have a good time with very little learning curve. I plan to do this by using simple rules (the LoTFP Weird Fantasy rules, with a couple of house
rules) and by being fine with players doing stuff because they think it'll be fun, not just because it represents "what the character would do".

To have a consistent campaign setting with a (likely) inconsistent cast of players, I'll be using a "where you character disappeared to" random table. I haven't written it yet, but I figure if you play one game, then miss two, then play one, you'll roll on the table when you return to the game and we'll discover that you were whisked away by fairies or something. And then we can just play some DnD, without
stressing about narrative cohesion too much.

Who's interested???

A Blog!

This is my first blog post ever! I'm starting this blog for two reasons:

-I started a regular D&D campaign a few months ago, and I've been thinking that it would be easier and maybe less annoying to share play reports, resources and so on with players this way than by sending out mass emails.

- I've been following "old school renaissance" D&D blogs for maybe a year now, and I'm often inspired by what I read. There's really a lot of fun, exciting, original stuff out there, and I'd like to be a part of it!

Wish me luck!