Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lacuna Locurae Play Session Report 3: Death of a Hound, and the Peasants are Revolting (You can say that again!)

Last session, Lilya Jormal, daughter of Uxo Jormal, and Harris Patter, wannabe wizard, were taken prisoner by the Yamash and his (presumably) evil councilor, Sylle Ru. Their inevitable fate will be to appease the fiendish Hound of Hirot, as the Yamash hopes to make up for the missed sacrifice of the day past.

The party needs a plan. They have a (supposedly) magical artifact, a rope of corpse hair. They've been told by the witch, Ymae, that it will be able to bind the Hound, making it vulnerable to their weaponry. Also, a now-friendly Beacon Duu of the Temple of Luz has offered to bless them, though he avers that his faith is weak, these days, and he may not be up to the task. Nonetheless, they will accept his blessing and ask him to make them some holy water, just in case that might help. He gives it his best shot.

The women are taken to the standing stones to be sacrificed, and a guard is left there to ensure that no one will free them prior to the arrival of the Hound. The adventurers decide that they will wait until just before dusk, and then try to scare the guards away before the Hound arrives at the standing stones. One of them, an animal trainer by trade, makes an attempt to mimic the terrifying howl of the Hound... and rolls a natural 20. The guards run away with alacrity, the scent of fresh piss in their wakes. Then, the party arrays itself in waiting. This part of the plan takes some time, as they are trying to figure out (1) if getting on top of the stones will help; (2) if the prisoners (now chained rather than tied) should be freed or left in place--they decide to leave them in place, for some reason; (3) who will mount the animal trainers' ponies for a 'cavalry charge' against the ravening Hound; (4) how best to deploy the holy water against the Hound; and (5) where everyone should stand to wait.

Eventually they work things out, and the Hound arrives from the north, and the barrowlands. Things do not go well. Though two characters are killed outright, and one more is wounded pretty badly, they are able to, through a combination of daring-do, pony charges, and shitty rolling on the part of the Hound (by Yours Truly), bind and slay the beast, which crumbles to ash before their very eyes. They free the prisoners and gather the ashes (They might come in handy, don't ya know), but decide to camp the night among the standing stones, hoping to return to Hirot in the morning. They slay one of the character's goat for purposes of a feast, build a fire, and eventually go to sleep. The night passes without further incident.

In the morning, they return to Hirot, claiming triumph over the Hound. Hearing the hubbub, the Yamash and Sylle Ru confront them, claiming that they lie. One of the characters (can't remember his name right now), has the gift of gab, and launches into a real stemwinder of an oration, displaying their dead and wounded (Nice job waving the bloody shirt, by the way, Chris), and even showing the ashes they carry with them. The crowd is impressed, by the Yamash persists in his shit-talking. Soon though, things begin to get a bit tense.

Uxo Jormal and some of the towns craftsmen and tradesmen have had enough of the Yamash and his councilor, and have decided this is the time for a coup. Uxo tells the Yamash to go stick it. He and the "town council" can do his job just fine without him, thank you very much. The crowd is impressed, and begins to make some noise about it. The party, though, is divided on this. Rebellion against the Yamash is tantamount to rebellion against the Empire, and could draw reprisal from Magyaru (and land them in a heap of trouble).

Sensing the tide turning against him, the Yamash turns to his councilor, Sylle Ru, but the reputed sorcerer is nowhere to be found. No one saw him go, and nobody is sure where he went. The Yamash is cowed by the revolting peasants, and flees back to his longhouse. He is trailed by two characters, who want to see what he is about, and maybe to find out what Sylle Ru might be doing, as well. They find the Yamash and his bodyguard arming themselves to take by force the power that is theirs by right, but no sign of Sylle Ru, who may sense a change in the winds of fortune, and may well have fled for more pacific climes. Either way, the Yamash and his men are well-armed, own warhorses, and are pissed right the hell off.

Next time: Will the party lead the rebellion, follow the Town Council, or get the hell out of Hirot? Tune in to find out!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lacuna Locurae Play Session Report 2: Fetch me my aura stretcher!

When last we left our zero-level schlubs, they had rescued Lilya Jormal, the Innkeep's daughter and snuck her back into town. Unfortunately, their heroics would bear gruesome fruit. Later that night, The Hound would strike the town. The victims were a fisherman and his family, all of whom were slaughtered. Their home had been ripped asunder. Some members of the party decided to investigate.

When they arrived on the scene, the found Sylle Ru, the Yamash's councilor already at work, attempting to discover more about the beast. Harris (the aspiring apprentice wizard, hereafter knows as "Harris Patter") decided she would seek wisdom from him. She inquired what he was about. He answered her gruffly, asking her who she was, and why she wanted to know. She volunteered her name, and desire to be a wizard. He seemed unimpressed. So, she continued to pester him. Soon, her incessant questioning annoyed him past all endurance. "You want something to do, then?" he asked. "Fetch me my aura stretcher!"

Harris, not knowing much about magic, and never having worked in the construction trades, did not realize that he had sent her on a wild goose chase. [Authorial aside: Similar to when I was asked, by one of the carpenters on a construction job, to fetch a "joist stretcher" from my uncle. My uncle, upon hearing my question, fetched a toilet plunger, attached an electrical junction box to it, and told me to, "Tell him I said to shove this up his ass."] In any case, she soon realized the ruse, but returned to find the councilor gone. However, she would not be forgotten, oh no...

Other members of the party, though, sought out the witch, Ymae. They arrived at her squalid hut to find an old woman weaving golden thread from the flames of her cooking fire. Surely she must be quite powerful, both to accomplish such a feat and to avoid the wrath of the Temple of Luz (which abhors sorcery and witchcraft). After speaking to Ymae for a bit, she offered that she might have a way to make the Hound vulnerable to mortal weaponry, but there would be a price: One of the characters would have to marry her. After some discussion, someone agreed to do it. She rewarded them with a rope made of corpse hair, all magicked up good, and (supposedly) what they needed to get the job done.

About this time, the Yamash, Sylle Ru, and the Yamash's body guard descended on the town square. Clearly, the Hound had taken its revenge on Hirot the night before, leading Sylle Ru to proclaim that the sacrifices had not been accepted for some reason. Investigation led to the truth of the matter. It would seem that, in the absence of the PCs, Lilya's presence in the inn had been discovered. So, her life would remain forfeit. Even worse, another sacrifice would be selected in the lottery. If there was any doubt whatsoever, at this point, that the lottery was rigged, it was dispelled. The Yamash selected a name (among which were all of the party's names). "Harris Potter!" he proclaimed, and Sylle Ru smiled nastily at the lass. Lilya and Harris were quickly corralled and led away until such time as they would be taken to the standing stones.

Also, in an act of kindness seemingly uncharacteristic of him, the priest, Beacon Duu, of the Temple of Luz, attempted to provide comfort to the party. He believes the Yamash's councilor to be a sorcerer, and wicked through-and-through, but feels powerless to gainsay him, lest the Yamash decide to dispense with him and his acolytes. Clearly, there are faultlines in the power structure of the town of Hirot.

Can the PCs rescue Harris? Will they be able to slay the Hound? Can they get to the bottom of Sylle Ru's fiendish plot? Tune in next time to find out.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lacuna Locurae Play Session Report 1: Shipwrecked on Magyaru, and Problems with Very Bad Doggies

My apologies for the long absence. Writing deadlines, wives with broken arms, day job, etc., have conspired to limit my time and energy. I've decided to get back into the swing of things by posting some reports of the sessions I've been running in my Lacuna Locurae setting, as part of the DCC RPG World Tour.

I've been running some DCC RPG World Tour sessions (three so far) on my campus, for members of our student gaming club, and others who are interested. It's been pretty great. I'm starting them off with a zero-level funnel version of Doom of the Savage Kings, with some of the encounters nerfed just a little bit. Though, as you shall see, this probably wasn't all that necessary.

I've had a fluctuating group of players. We game on Friday afternoons, but sometimes people can't make it, or show up a bit late, so we end up with somewhere between 4 and 7 players on any given day. Most of the players are veterans of various flavors of D&D and/or Pathfinder, so they know what they're doing. One even has played DCC with me before. They're playing smart, and they're very, very careful. So much so, that I sometimes have to force a decision by providing artificial time constraints on planning, if the planning takes too much time.

Here's what's happened so far.

Our party consisted of those whose lives had led them to leave the Great Empire--third sons and daughters, indentured servants, slaves, fortune-seekers, and whatnot. The were en route to Magyaru, a colonial port of the Empire. The Great Empire is, culturally, a bit like the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire, put in a blender. The native folk of the island are modeled on the Picts and Gaels of R. E. Howard's stories. So, in essence, I'm trying to mash up something like the Roman experience in Britain with the settlement of Colonial America.

The port city of Magyaru is on the southern coast of an island roughly the size of Texas. The island itself is a single, gigantic mountain, bigger than Everest by a long shot. Parts of it extend out into the surrounding sea, and manifest as various island chains, fertile fishing grounds for both honest fisherman and ruthless pirates. The island is home to savage tribes of pale-skinned, fair-haired folk. They tend to keep clear of the colonials, but there have been incidents. There will be more. I've also placed Magyaru and some of the surrounding settlements in the midst of ancient ruins and barrowlands. This could be consequential, later.

The party's ship ended up running aground on a reef when it got lost in the fog. The survivors made landfall about 80 miles west of Magyaru. The crew died in the wreck, and all record of the nature of the ship's passengers was lost. With no records of identity, indenture, or bondage, all of them are now free colonists. They need merely assume whatever identities please them, and start with a clean slate.

One passenger died as he jumped from the ship (fumbled), and broke his neck on the rocks. The rest made it to shore and found that the coastal road was not too far inland. They made camp and rested the night. When they reached the road the next morning, they spotted a native, who ran away from them. Two of the players decided to pursue him, but instead encountered a sounder of wild pigs. The boar managed to kill two zeroes before they killed it. They left the bodies and hauled away the fresh pork.

After walking the rest of the day, they found themselves on the outside of a fishing village, Hirot. Just outside of town, they stumbled upon a group of townsfolk leading a young woman to be sacrificed at a group of ancient standing stones. They didn't announce themselves, but watched and waited for a bit. After a while they approached and found out that the sacrifice was intended to appease some kind of demonic hound. The Yamash (a title for the ruler of this town) and his advisor (Sylle Ru) had concocted a scheme whereby sacrifices would be made. This time, it would be the innkeeper's only daughter, Lilya. Her father, Uxo, had gotten on the wrong side of them, it seems, and this was their revenge.

The source of conflict, as the players would find out later, was contention over governance of Hirot. The appointed rulers, the Yamash and his bodyguard of noble warriors, had come into conflict with the town's notable men of affairs. This tension between the old nobility and the rising merchant class will be a source of constant tension in this setting.

In any case, the party freed the girl and disguised her with a hooded cloak. They entered the town and made friends with her father, while she hid upstairs in her family's lodgings.

Later that night, the Hound of Hirot returned. Not finding a sacrifice to appease it, the beast leaped over the wall and ripped its way into a house. After eviscerating a family of five, it returned from whence it came.

Next Installment: The Day After



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dave's not here, man (a prelude to an adventure)

Ready to roll, +Shawn Sanford. Something to work from. I'm not sure what the adventure involves (only have read the back cover blurb), but this should take it in the right direction.

Ever since the collapse of Emirikol's tower, Kormaki had felt listless, a sense of pervasive dread and impending doom filling his waking moments. His brush with his deities had, on balance, been something other than what he'd ever expected, and certainly nothing he would wish for. Even the arms of Wendylita, the High Priestess of the Metal Gods' Iron Cathedral brought him little comfort. For a time, he sought refuge in drink. It didn't work. So he drank some more, and stonger stuff. All that bought him were hangovers and blank places where his memories should be, and bruises and scrapes where his skin should be. When his brothers and sisters in the Divine Order asked him what troubled him, he had no real answer. Nothing did. Everything did. He didn't want to talk about it.

After several weeks of this pathetic crap, Kormaki discovered, quite by chance, that he still had one more dose of the Purple Tentacle. He'd first encountered this substance back in the days when he'd just started adventuring with the Order, back before the Order even had a name. There had been a well, but not an ordinary well. When they'd approached it, they'd been attacked by some hideous beast from beyond space and time. They'd sent the bastard packing, of course, but it had left behind the tip of one of its purple tentacles. Long story short, they decided to see if it had any special properties... particularly psychoactive properties, and... well, yeah... they got totally high. Hey, man, it was the Seventies; it was a crazy time. They'd seen visions of things and places beyond the realms of their imagination, and it changed their perspective on the world around them. From this communion was born the Divine Order of the Purple Tentacle. But here was one last dose... "What the hell," he muttered, and drained the vial in an instant, chasing it with moonshine.

Perhaps hell-beasts from beyond space and time age differently than creatures of this plane. Perhaps substances derived of them do, as well. Whatever might be true, the Purple Tentacle had somehow become even more potent with age. Kormaki's mind was transported to every place, and every time. He watched the march of history from its beginning to end, and witnessed, first-hand, each of his lives upon this world, past, present, and future. Whole universes were birthed and then died, and he was witness to every moment, every tiny detail. Everything was born. Everything lived, Everything died. Everything was born again, lived again, died again, over and over and over. After a while the details began to blur into formlessness, and only the recurring patterns remained viable: Birth-Life-Death, all connected, with no beginning and no end.

Kormaki awoke, many hours later, his head hazy, his body weakened from the Tentacle's effects, remembering virtually nothing of his visions, but muttering to himself, over and over, like a mantra, "Deathisnotfinaldeathisnotfinaldeathisnotfinaldeathisnotfinal..." He blinked his eyes, and rubbed the crud out of them. Reaching for the whiskey bottle to wash the foul taste form his mouth, he suddenly was confronted with a moment of absolute clarity: a vision of Dave Filth's final moments, right before, during, and after he was sucked into that wizard's accursed jewel, and lost forever.

In that moment, everything clicked into place. Death is not the end, but only the beginning. Thus it only stood to reason that Kormaki's duty to his flock, even if that flock was only a gongfarmer-turned-warrior and a newly-frocked member of the cult of the Metal Gods, also had no end... They were brothers to death, through death, and from death, onward. And in that moment, he found a new purpose. He would confront Death itself, if need be... but Dave Filth would live again.

Filled with righteous certainty, Kormaki readied himself, donning mail and taking up axe, he hit the streets to look for those who might join him. They'd have to be brave, or fools, or both. As he strode down the filthy streets, guided by his idiot vision, a lost hymn was revealed to him, and so he knew he was on the right path. Though it led to death itself, it was the only path to take.


So we bravely gather, though we moan with dread,
Do you see before you, the Kingdom of the Dead?







Monday, August 25, 2014

Alive!

I've been a participant in +Shawn Sanford's ongoing DCC RPG FLAILSNAILS campaign for probably something over a year, now. Shawn runs a great game, and his skills as a judge, combined with his reliability in running sessions, are things that have kept me coming back for more. This game also has given me a chance to play in a variety of published DCC RPG modules, which I really don't get to do as often as you might think, and certainly not as much as I would like to. He has hinted that he might be on the verge of exposing us to some original, sandbox play and Sanford-authored adventures, which I would love to try out, but we'll see what happens with that in a couple of weeks. For now, let me tell you about the last session.

At the last cliffhanger, the party (most of us below the recommended level) had killed two wizards, including Emirikol and his rival, Leotah (sp.?). I was pretty sure we'd die in that session, but not so. That put my cleric, Kormaki Lemmisson, right on the cusp of 4th level, a place I never thought to see. We still needed to survive one more session for him to make the jump, though.

We began by looting the wizard's bedroom/study. Found some pretty good stuff in there, including a lot of actual gold and gems. Mat's wizard gained a bitchin' cape of protection against magic, plus 2. Then we went through a portal to what seemed to be Emirikol's "panic room." It was chock full of iron golems and a black gem that zapped us repeatedly with harmful magics. Chris's Dyer Halfling managed to spider climb up to the ceiling, and dropped about 30 feet to double stab it. Double crits! He smashed the gem... and himself. Tried to heal him, but failed. Then, the tower started shaking. Self-destruct mode initiated, apparently. Time to bail! We fled to the previous room, presumably the top of the tower.

Once there, we had two options: Leap through the black portal that Leotah had used when she'd arrived, earlier; or, we could brave the non-Euclidean geometries of the tower, and not die in the process. There was a lot of falling stone happening, and I was not convinced that we could find our way out. That tower was confusing. Given that we didn't have any idea how long we had, I opted (along with Chris and one other person--Mat, I think) to leap into the black portal. It was... a mistake. We suddenly found ourselves 120 feet above the pavement. Shawn advised us to get ready to roll 12d6 damage. Instead, I called upon the Metal Gods, asking for for divine intervention. Chris burned his luck down to the minimum to aid the cause. I burned mine too, and the roll was a 37. Shawn allowed that I'd survived unscathed (as I most likely was aided by Robhal, the Metal God of flight, studded leather, and steel). Chris and (I think) Mat each took some damage, but not 12d6. They survived, barely. Chris's luck will heal, at least. That's excellent. That halfling has been a godsend to this party.

So, we survived. Believe me, no one saw that coming, least of all me.

Bad things:

  • My disapproval is now going to need some serious repair. My cut of the treasure will be donated at the Iron Cathedral, when I am able. Maybe I'll blow it on Dave Filth's wake (see below).
  • My luck mod is now -3, and that's not going away any time soon. I fear it may be the death of me.
  • It's official: Barry's character, Dave Filth, is no more. When Emirikol died, we lost all hope of getting him out of that gem he got Magic Jarred into. I'll miss that guy. He was a mate to Kormaki, and we'd been through many an adventure together. I'll see that he is sent off properly at the Iron Cathedral. There will be many a tankard and bottle drained in his name, at the wake. 

Good things:

  • Kormaki is now 4th level, an Apostle. He gains one 1st and one 2nd level spell, and another hit die. He also gets a +1 bump to his Fort saves.
  • The wizard tower is now a pile of rubble. Fuck you, wizards. Eat a bag of wangs. Oh, wait, you can't. You're dead. Fine, eat them in Hell.
  • We are due some payment from the city guard for fulfilling our charge to deal with this wizard problem.

Now, all I have to do is avoid falling anvils and pianos. I have a feeling it won't be very easy, so wish me luck. It's not like I have any of my own.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Meetings with the Metal Gods: Recapping an Epic Gen-Con

People, I've seen the Promised Land. I have traveled across the hills and plains, and found Nerdvana; and it was peopled with My Folk.

I rose in the dark of the morning, and, lacking sleep did sally forth to Bush Field. There did I mount a bird whose food is flammable, whose breath is fire, whose roar is mighty, and rose we did up into the sky. A short journey ensued, to the land of Indy, ere I dismounted and, girding my loins, and taking up my pack and what small weapons and gaming stones I bore with me, strode into a new land. And, Lo! There I saw in the sky, wreathed in fire and smoke, an apparition of Chaos. 'twere the wizard +Wayne Snyder, and I recognized him instantly. Soon we were joined there, in that eyrie by others of our clan and faith: +Gabriel Perez Gallardi and +Doug Kovacs.

Doug and Wayne did depart, riding in a waiting chariot, while I and the Uruguayan, a swarthy, moustachioed  worthy of fell aspect and impeccable manners, awaited our own. Soon did arrive the hulking Pole with booming voice, +Adam Muszkiewicz to bear us away, into the heart of the city. Within mere minutes, our foe, Murphy, did strike against us, casting a spell of heat and imminent fire against the mechanical heart of the chariot, and we were forced to stop at a local oasis. There did we purchase cool drinks while the chariot cooled its temper. We provided an elixir to sooth it, and soon we were on our way, once more.

We approached the monolith, itself limned against others like it, known only as Con-Rad. In this great edifice would we lay our heads, when the opportunity for slumber came (which was not often enough). Our hosts treated us like kings, though we were but princes of the road, and unsavory to look at. It was then that I strode forth to meet the Dark Master, Good-man, who had summoned me from my lair, to bear witness to this annual ritual.

I wound my way through the labryrinth called "Sky Way," and, after many a false turn, was guided by a member of the Con Guard, to the mighty treasure house. There, I communed through the aether with the Dark Master, and he brought forth a talisman for my use. With it I could pass, then, the gate guards and enter the sanctum. Within, men and beast alike arranged in artful ways the treasure of many distant lands, each conclave of wizards within its own ritual circle. Some even did erect edifices of stone and metal to bear their banners, and the jewels of chaos gleamed under the harsh light of the weirdling suns.

Chessex dice display. Yes, I bought a lot of them. How could I not?

For the Dark Master I toiled, long into the eve, ere being granted leave to join my band, the +Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad. We gathered in the tavern of Em-Bas-E for the nightly ritual, contending there each night, our judges calling forth powers fell and terrible: Fish wizards with laser eyes, the dead ones, amazons and squid men, and Young Dave Mustaine. Many died there, from battle, from rains of acid blood, and from corruption. I slew a fish-wizard, garotting him with my sackcloth thong, though my corrupted junk had withered away (not pictured).



In the end, only one escaped from Catastrophe Island. I, however, fell to fierce and furry Chewbacca, whose luck knows no bounds. Then the gods grew weary of play, and their mortal toys were put away.


Let me tell you also of the siege of Exhibition Hall. Each day the ravening hordes did gather outside the gates, ready to sack and to pillage.

Totally ready for ravening. Take our money!
Each day we stood stalwart and steely-eyed (or bleary-eyed, depending on the previous night), behind stout ramparts of merch'.

The Goodman Games booth crew.
Top: Steve Bean, Edgar Johnson
Bottom: Michael Crane (I think?), Keith Labaw, Dieter Zimmerman
For days we were besieged, our merch stocks dwindling, until the hordes broke and retreated to their lairs. Much gold had we gained, and one Hwil Hwheaton (a.k.a. +Wil Wheaton ), skald of the Interwebz, consorted with the Dark Master and +Michael Curtis. I am told he bore from that meeting two tomes of lore. Mayhap he will sing their praises before all is said and done. 

Yeah, I missed this one. Hey, Wil, how about putting DCC RPG on Tabletop?
(Photo from DCC RPG Facebook page)
 Each day was battle and bachanal, each night too short, as we feasted and drank, well-met in taverns and great halls, telling stories, playing games, rolling dice.

Blood for the Serpent King!
Each night grew longer; each morning came earlier. But we were stalwart. Each day dawned to reveal new possibilities and new challenges. We marched on, our line unbroken, under the protection of the Metal Gods.

These are my people.
And on the last night, we met in conclave, hoisted tankards, and drank to our own health. The night was endless and too short, all at once. 

Oh, boy, did I fail my Fort save this night. Almost missed my plane.
So much happened on this campaign, too much to remember, too much to tell. But I was there, surrounded by friends, both old and new.

Joseph Goodman, Nathan Panke, Alex Mayo, Harley Stroh
I finally got to meet Jen Brinkman. She's just as good in person.
Gabriel Perez Gallardi and Wayne Snyder. Also even better in person.

The ritual is complete, the spell is cast, and circle is joined. We call into being a Purple Planet. We summon forth the Metal Gods. You will all die, and you will love it.
The wizard, Harley Stroh, and his team of badasses. We will bring forth
the Purple Planet from our fevered brains. (Photo by Wayne Snyder)
Pictured: Harley Stroh, Edgar Johnson, Doug Kovacs, Tim Callahan.
Photobombing: The rest of the Metal Gods crew.
Not pictured: Daniel J. Bishop and Terry Olson).
The final dawn it came too soon. I bolted from my pallet, reeking of the night before, stomach churning, head pounding, parched and panicked. Without even a proper fare-thee-well, I departed, borne to the hall of the great birds by a hulking black chariot. But all was not well. The bird of my desire had fallen ill, and would not be on time. I was stranded for a time in Indy, and then again in the land of Charlotte, where I bided my time on the edge of sleep and sickness, the corruption from my night's revelry roiling in my guts. Long hours did I wait, until at last I was born home upon wings of steel, to be greeted by my loving clan.  I spilled forth, then, my tale, and gave out the loot I had wrested from that foreign land. A slight repast. A sleep like death, but too short. Far too short. 

Cold morning came early (too early), whisking away half-remembered dreams. Dreams? Was it only a dream? Then how true these dreams, of people and places, and all the things we did, graven upon my heart like a poem, ringing in my mind like a song. I was there, and you were too. Our days were too long, and our hours too few. I hope that yours was just as fine, your friends and your time, as good as mine. That's all I have, and this tale is done.

Author's Note:

Thanks to everyone who made my first Gen-Con (my first gaming con of any kind!) a great one. I know I'm going to miss somebody, but here's a list:

Sadly, I will not return next year. It's at a bad time of year for me (Monday was hell, people...). However, I will attend North Texas RPG Con 2015. I hope to see at least a few old friends there as well.                      








Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Off to GenCon

Oh, long suffering readers (all two of you), please forgive the radio silence. Between work on stretch goals for the inimitable +Harley Stroh's Peril on the Purple Planet, getting ready for GenCon, and getting work stuff squared away for going away this weekend, I have been neglecting the blog. I will come back soon, with reports from the hinterlands of Indianapolis.

In the meantime, I look forward with great anticipation to meeting the flesh sacks of the virtual people with whom I interact fairly frequently. The +Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad will be there, including Sr. +Gabriel Perez Gallardi, all the way from Uruguay. Cannot wait to see them.

I'll be working with Goodman Games on my first ever GenCon (and first ever gaming convention of any kind). I'll be at the booth in the exhibition hall from 10-1 on Thursday and Friday, and 10-11 on Saturday, and running games in the afternoon on those days. You will also be able to catch me at DougKon in the evenings, if you care to do so.

I've also made my reservations for North Texas RPG Con 2015, which will be my con for the foreseeable future, probably, as GaryCon and GenCon come at very awkward times of the year, work-wise. Still, the lack of sleep this weekend, the probably "con crud" I will pick up, and all the rest of the unpleasantness of travel, all of it will be worth it. My friends in the Metal Gods group are the fucking best, and the rest of the folks at Goodman Games are classy as hell.

Livin' the dream, people. Hope to see some of you there.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bleg: Peril on the Purple Planet

I don't do a lot of these "blegging" posts, but here's one you might want to read.

Goodman Games' current Kickstarter for Peril on the Purple Planet is going full-tilt boogie, and closes out in seven days. The adventure is the work of Harley Stroh, but also includes components created by a cast of many others, including me, Daniel Bishop, Terry Olson, Tim Callahan, and illustrated (of course) by the mad wizard himself, Doug Kovacs.

I've seen a lot of the material for the stretch goals (Yes, they're already written/being written), and the work we've done, so far, is incredibly cool and fun. Because of non-disclosure agreement, I can't go into details about the specific content, but the stretch goals listed on the pledge site are suggestive of the various aspects of The Awesome that Awaits. Go take a look at those stretch goals and imagine what you could do in your games with that material, even if you don't run the straight adventure. You could mine this stuff for great ideas for years and years of DCC RPG madness.

The $50 buy-in is the sweet spot, for which you'll receive a boxed set, including all of the stretch goals. Just go look at that list, and tell me it's not worth the money.

The Pitch: This thing is awesome. Let's make Joseph Goodman create some more stretch goals. Let's make this boxed set the coolest thing ever. Fifty bucks gets you EVERYTHING. Go (NOW!) and make it happen. You won't regret it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lacuna Locurae

Just a follow-up from my earlier post. I've had some time to think through how I'd like to approach the colonial element, done a bit of research into mid-15th century warfare, and so forth. Here's what I have so far. I still need names for the various levels of the city, so feel free to offer up suggestions. Ignore the bolding of the names. It's an early-draft formatting trick I use to ensure common spelling of names and titles.

Lacuna Locurae

An Early Colonial Setting for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
by
Edgar D. Johnson III

Introduction

Lacuna Locurae is an otherworld, a world in a plane of existence parallel to the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad campaign world, a shadow to the planet Ore. The starting locale for the campaign is Magyaru, a bustling port city of a fading colonial power. The city is host to a trade in all manner of things, a crossroads of sorts to the world's powers, and a place where any deal might be made, for the right price. Nobles and pirates, sages and savages, witches and those who hunt witches might be found in Magyaru, along with any other thing in the world, anything at all.

The main influences over this setting are Howard's Solomon Kane stories and, to be frank, gothic fiction as it has been done in a bunch of shitty movies. The pulp feel should be high, but so, too, should be the pervading sense of both encroaching doom and infinite horizons.

Personae Dramatis

Though Magyaru is ruled by a colonial governor and his captain-general, its merchant houses and guilds are growing in power, aided in part by High Primarch Kraston Moll and clergy of the the Temple of Luz, whose hierarchy has begun to question the governor's leadership and the insidious influence of his mysterious, masked advisor, Her Ladyship Lorenia Rond. She, for her part, is reputed to come from far Silicia, thousands of leagues to the west. None have ever seen even her fingers, let alone her face, for her customs dictate that she be fully masked and robed outside of the Glass Tower. The high clergy of Luz, in fact, suspect the Lady is a witch, and that her shroud conceals tokens of her bedevilment and corruption from the righteous. They would like very much to allow the Inquistors of Luz to put her to the question, and burn her for her crimes against all that is holy. That course, however, is not possible at this time, for the Governor is seemingly besotted of the foreign devil. The governor is the fifth son of Arch Duke Corlo Mythrux, who is advisor to the Empress, Herself, and thus not to be trifled with. His son, Danal Mythrux, however, is little like his esteemed father, and has been sent far from court so that he won't continue to embarrass his family. Captain-General Koban Markoz arrived with the governor, and serves both as military leader of the colony, as well as shepherd of sorts to the Arch Duke's troublesome scion. He is utterly loyal to the Arch Duke, but only barely tolerates his son—a fact which enrages said son, and has made it much easier for Lorenia Rond to insinuate herself into his coterie of sycophants.

The Governor spends much of his time at his cups, or perhaps dandling a concubine upon his knee. He has a particular penchant for the native women among the servants. Though he is not a cruel man, Danal Mythrux has difficulty understanding why this might be a problem for anyone else, particularly the women themselves. He is, of course, peerless in this realm, and deserving of everything he wants (or so he fancies).

The Governor's advisor, the mysterious Lorenia Rond, is, herself, a native of sorts. Imperial colonists arrived in the region only 100 years ago, but her tower, the Glass Tower, already stood atop a flattened area of mountainside, 1,000 feet above the highest spires of Magyaru, itself. The symbolism of this fact is not lost on Captain-General Markoz, though the Governor will hear no ill spoken of Lady Rond.

Geography

Magyaru consists of several more or less spacious levels cut into the side of a mountain. Each successive level is smaller than the one below, and the lowest level abuts onto a wide gorge which gives birth to a river entering the harbor itself.

The seven levels of the city above Harbortown are organized largely by function. The highest level of the city proper is (1) the Governor's Palace and associated executive offices, barracks, etc. Below the Palace, in order of importance, are (2) the estates of the noble families (need name for this level), (3) the homes and business offices of the merchant princes and guild masters (need name for this level), (4) the cloisters of sages and clergy (need name for this level), (5) the market square and the shops of skilled tradesmen, (6) the homes and barracks of common laborers, soldiers, and mercenaries (need name for this level), and (7) the hovels of the dregs and remnants of civilization: madmen, indentured servants, and slaves (the Low City). Each level has one or more stairs, elevators, or whatever other means of access; but the higher one goes, the fewer are the "bridges." The Governor's palace only has one stairway, but it is large, sumptuously crafted, and very, very well guarded.

It being customary that the "high and mighty" live on high, as it were, many of the nicer buildings of each level of the city hover at the edges above the next level down. Not coincidentally, the areas near the higher cliffs are less desirable, possibly because the levels drain water (and its various contents) from high to low: Shit literally flows downhill, ending up in the harbor, for the most part. Also, clusters of ramshackle shanties and platforms hang from the cliff sides and fill the hollows between the lowest two levels (Harbortown and Low City). They are inhabited by those whose lot is worst (or whose infamy is greatest). There are occasional "accidents"— fires, collapses, and the like—which result in dozens or even hundreds of casualties among these unfortunates. Rampant poverty and squalor give rise to all manner of crime, though most of it finds victims among those living closest to the misery, not those higher in the city.

The city guard forces of Captain-General Markoz ("greencoats"), are willing to ignore crimes that don't affect the high and mighty. Those who ignore this class barrier will find no mercy from the Grey Court (as the legal offices of the Captain-General are called), which makes a public spectacle of the trials, judgments, and inevitable executions of any who dare to afflict the comfortable. It's not that Markoz is corrupt, but more that he recognizes quality by the color of its coin, and believes that worthiness manifests as wealth, whether the holder of the coin be guild master, merchant, pirate, adventurer, or prince of the underworld. For this reason, the most successful grifters in Magyar or those who are not recognized as criminals at all.

Finally, there is the port, proper, its wharfs and jetties a chaos of perpetual activity. There, one can find ship to any place in the known world, arrange for supplies and repairs, and hire a crew or a party from among the sailors and other adventurers who frequent the dockside inns, taverns, and dives.

Above the city, the great mountain climbs into the clouds and beyond. The Glass Tower of Lorenia Rond shines a thousand feet above the city, old beyond measure yet gleaming as if new-made. It stands athwart the best path to the celestial summit of the great mountain. No one thinks to go beyond it, though; no one has ever tested this implicit boundary. No one even wonders why this is so.

The broader region of mountains in which Magyaru is situated is populated by tribes of savage humans, some warlike and some less so. Most of these savages are content to leave the Imperials to their affairs, and trade with them occasionally. Some warlords, though, contemplate at length the riches of the city, and the wonder why they should not have a part of those riches, or maybe even all of them.

Religion

The cult of Luz the Purifier holds sway in Magyaru, and guards its prerogatives and official status like a miser guards his gold. The cult is only one of many of the Empire's faiths. However, it is the official faith of this particular colony, having underwritten substantially the founding of Magyaru. So, in most things, other cults go about their business quietly, and without antagonizing the Temple of Luz or its High Primarch. High Primarch Kraston Moll is a veteran of the Imperial temple's politics and is connected at all levels of the city, and can deploy a variety of resources, from spies to his personal guard (which is not inconsiderable). He also is rumored to have a force of temple assassins at his disposal, but it's only a rumor, after all.

Luz the Purifier is a lawful deity, the flame of knowledge and disperser of shadows. The Temple of Luz also is home to many of the Empire's great artificers and natural philosophers. Much of its doctrine revolves around a complex astrology of sun, stars, and moons (the Great Machine), and there are festivals and sacrifices marking significant conjunctions of them. In many ways, the cult makes Magyaru a better place, providing learning and charity to the respectful and law-abiding. They can be ruthless, however, and work hard to suppress magical heresies, the cult itself the only acceptable practitioner of the divine. Those who dabble in the arcane, or who truck with magical beings, tend to become targets of the cult's retribution, though it often is not direct, relying on provocateurs and catspaws among the working classes' faithful.

Technology

While firearms are becoming relatively common among the martial classes, they are primitive. The low-velocity, smoothbore, matchlock muskets and pistols are state of the art. Mostly, though, armies still rely on primitive weapons at close quarters, and crossbows are the most common missile weapon.

Plate breastplates and brigandine armors, similarly, are becoming more common than traditional ring- and chainmail, and shields typically are used only by heavy infantry and heavy cavalry.

Artillery exists, but consists of "bombards," huge, unwieldy pieces designed for siege work, and for reducing fortifications. Mobile, wheeled artillery has not yet emerged; and shipboard cannon still are not used. Instead, naval warfare relies on long-range fire with bows, crossbows, and primitive siege engines, and closing with the enemy to engage via boarding action.

Steel and iron are the metals of the age, though good-quality bronze weapons and armor still can be found among the savage tribes of the highlands.

The World Outside Magyaru

The mountains behind the city rise up, past the Glass Tower, up into alpine valleys and highlands, up, up, up, to the stars, some claim. People don't like to talk about what's Above. They avoid talking about it, and take great exception to those who question too much. A variety of savage tribes live above the city, and trade foodstuffs and other products with the city-folk, usually in exchange for iron and steel weapons and tools, gauds and tokens of civilization, and whatever strong drink might be available.

Magyaru produces little of what it uses, and there are few arable acres within the city's boundaries. The sea is mother and father, nurturing life and providing the sternest of taskmasters, and provides everything Magyaru requires, be it trade goods, precious metals, warm bodies, food, or whatever else. The city's harbor is a ravening maw, consuming all the good things that enter it, even if only in the form of silver from resupplying ships making port calls, and from their crews who sample from the fleshpots of the lower city.

Races

From highland savage to Imperial royalty, the races of this world are the races of Men, and come in all kinds, creeds, colors, and flavors. Human ways are pretty much what you'd expect: They glom together in groups because of accidents of geography and parentage, and each group believes on some level it is the most righteous (by whatever arbitrary measure).

Here, in Magyaru, the majority and the ruling classes are one in the same: Imperial mutts of various sorts. People of particular regions who, because of duty to the Empire, lived out their lives far from home, and there found life, love, and an ending. There are, however, plenty of visitors from far-off, exotic climes, with strange and outlandish customs and beliefs. Magyaru is a crossroads, people come here to make deals. They usually tolerate the idiosyncracies of others for practical reasons.


PCs who have come from Ur-Hadad or other places with the demi-human races (e.g., dwarves, Halflings, elves, etc.) will find themselves subject to scrutiny. Dwarves and Halflings, of course, can pass as humans who happen to be shorter and smaller; they also may face additional jibes and petty cruelties because of their size. Elven PCs, on the other hand, at least those who go without the expensive (and concealing) iron-protective raiment, will draw pointed looks, and signs to ward off the Evil Eye. There are no elves here. To the folk of this world, they simply look like demons of legend (which legends, it should be noted, are all eerily similar in matters of infernal mythology, no matter their cultural origin).

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Using Mighty Deeds to Bring Flava to tha Fighta


One of the greatest contributions the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG makes to d20 game mechanics, is the "Mighty Deed of Arms" for warriors and dwarves. Like the "feat" in later editions of D&D, the Deed is a specialized maneuver resulting in better, flashier combat outcomes. It allows for things not explicated in the rules, but also provides a set of principles--general themes that can be applied flexibly to given circumstances--whereby one can engineer this particular subsystem to generate "feat-like" outcomes. Consider the following passages from the rulebook (pp. 88-92) to be the principles of which I speak:

  • The higher the deed die, the more successful the Deed.
  • A warrior’s Deeds should fit the situation at hand and reflect the might and daring of a great fighter.
  • A warrior may even devise a “signature move” that he frequently attempts based on his particular proclivities.  [even one involving a specific weapon ~EDJ]
  • Creative players will certainly come up with new Deeds. Encourage and allow this.

The example deeds in that section of the rulebook are types of attacks and effects (e.g., blinding, pushback, etc.), and provide a sense of how to scale outcomes based on the Deed Die roll. What it doesn't go into as explicitly, is how the Deed can be used to differentiate character from class--i.e., to make each character more than just another stereotypical example of his or her class. Sure, there's still room for the fighter to be the main battle tank of the party, but Deeds can be matched not only to fit a particular combat situation or need, but also to tell us who your character is, and how he or she takes care of business.

An Example

Suppose you wanted to create a warrior, but also wanted to avoid the increased fumble dice associated with heavier armor. If you handle that character like the standard "tank" fighter--heaviest armor available, plus shield--going toe-to-toe with every creeping horror and boss monster out there, you'll be slaughtered. Fun for your GM, but not so fun for you. So what can you do?

First, think a little bit about great fighters you've seen, the fighters who don't wear mail but still kick ass. Like this guy:
Errol Flynn being awesome in high boots and a leather vest,
with not a scrap of plate mail (nor a shield) in sight.
I can think of a couple of Deeds for the prototypical swashbuckler type. The first of these is defensive. Let's call it "Baffle Them with Bullshit." One reason swashbuckling swordspersons are so cool, is that they both outfight and outfox their opponents. A good one cash go up against the burliest of foes and slice that foe to ribbons, whilst taking nary a scratch in the process. Baffle Them with Bullshit is the reason they don't get killed. With slashing, slicing, silver streaks of sword-swinging, the swashbuckler weaves a wall of protection, adding to his or her AC on a successful Deed, but not otherwise affecting the strike. The warrior can still hit, but the way he or she does so--with lightning-fast arrays of feints, counters, and strikes, makes it more difficult to the opponent to hit the warrior. The better the result, the more the protection.

The "Defensive Maneuvers" entry in the rulebook's Mighty Deeds of Arms section is pretty generic, dealing with providing active defense for the party--Shield walls, back-to-back fighting. That's one way to go, but preserves a fairly archetypal "fighter" role for the PC. Using the deed in ways that moves you away from the typical hack-n-slash fighter (or hand-n-bash, for dwarves), also helps to to move you in the direction of another version of the warrior archetype. In this case, the Deed provides access to a different kind of fighting style, and subsequent choices about armor, for example, that support that style. You can't very well go leaping about in plate mail (at least not without risking a dire Reflex save), in the same way that you can in thigh-high boots and a leather jerkin (Whew! Did it just get hot in here?). If you're going to go up against heavily armored foes, then you'll need to have a fighting style to reflect how you go about your business: nimble defense, piercing thrusts, leaping, swinging from ropes, etc., all of which could go into your repertoire of Mighty Deeds.

Or how about this guy:
Errol Flynn being awesome while wearing hose of Lincoln Green.
So, you say your warrior has an 8 Strength due to that whole "necrotic drain from a chaotic wizard" thing? No worries. You still got  that Agility bonus. It's not much, but it makes shooting a bow much more attractive than swinging an axe. In this case, deeds will be focused on things like precision shots, trick shots, enhanced rate of fire, and the like, and even get you thinking about things like fire arrows (or poison, for the chaotic among you with a disregard of the dangers of poison-handling). Again, the flavor of the fighter shifts from armored tank to something else entirely, something more like the "ranger" archetype.

The main thing I wish to emphasize, here, is that Mighty Deeds are not simply something you do in combat. They are used for that, certainly, but they also help you think about who your warrior is, and how he or she does the biz. As soon as you get done with that zero-level funnel, and you look at the possibilities, that 7 Strength might make veer wildly from making a warrior character. It shouldn't. Are you more agile? Then use your Agility to drive your deeds? Are you a high Personality character, but the very thought of playing a cleric gives you hives? Fine. What if one of your Deeds involved taunting your opponents, enraging them and making them sloppy, and allowing you to take advantage of, say, lowered armor class, an enhanced fumble die, or something of that ilk?

Using the Mighty Deed of Arms, all of this (and more) is possible. You needn't be limited by prime requisites, by armor and arms choices, or by other limitations we tend to ascribe to the warrior-as-fighter. Sure, you're still a fighter, but specialized Deeds can make you a smarter, more interesting version of that archetype, and you needn't be the strongest guy in the tavern to do so.

Obviously, you and your judge will need to make good decisions about how this will work. The best place to do so is in the 0-level to 1st level transition period of character generation, when PC classes are chosen. With the right idea, and the right set of Deeds, your warrior may not be the biggest, baddest, hard-ass around, but he or she can still be mighty, indeed. (Damn, that one never gets old.)