Friday, February 27, 2015

I can't complain

So, Johnson, you're supposed to be maintaining this blog, right? What happened?

Short answer is: Work. Man, I've been busy lately. Trying to finish a book proposal (with a bit of writer's block to work through), regular teaching, some committee and admin work, that sort of thing. All in all, I'm doing some pretty cool things. I can't complain about that.

Here's the latest thing I got involved in. Can you spot me?

Someone thought I should be on this search committee. How could I say no?

It's been a while since my last play update from the Lacuna Locurae campaign, and I'll be taking care of that now, if only briefly. A lot has happened.

The students in my face-to-face group returned to the colony's main port (Magyaru) carrying 300 pounds of gold purloined from a transmuted standing stone. They left approximately 11 tons more of it behind. This fact was discovered shortly thereafter by an Imperial patrol. It had come to their attention because the local tribes whose sacred site had been defiled started getting pissed off and fighty. It's funny how a weird bit of mercurial magic can cause ripple effects, isn't it? I anticipate that a war may be brewing. Further, the gold being brought in from the hinterlands has had the effect of inflating the local economy somewhat, but the larger effects will be felt in the Empire itself, and will take a long while to manifest (as the Spanish discovered during their colonial period). This assumes that the gold actually reaches the Empire, which is not as certain as it could be. I'll explain in a moment.

In the meantime, the PCs have made contact with a faction of the local underworld. They think it's The Thieves' Guild, but my guy feeling tells me that the situation is far, far more complicated, and the power structure of the city more complex. They've made an alliance, and chosen a side. This may later have repercussions, once I determine what other powers might also be at play. They changed their gold for silver coin, and (of course) paid extravagantly for the service. Still, each PC was left with something like 5,500 sp. Several of them pooled resources to buy a piece of property. They propose to build an inn in the Low City, and call it the Red Lily. It's being constructed, and will be done in a few months. They will, however, need some more money.

Their underworld contact, Molo Kratz, mentioned offhandedly that the Empire's "black ship" would be arriving soon, to transport the many tons of fine gold back to Ur-Hadad. As I hoped they might, the players saw this as a great opportunity to sate their avarice, and began to hatch a plan.
It also became quite clear that they PCs would need help to pull this off. Molo Kratz provided some logistical help and advice (for a percentage of the take). He, of course, had been playing these fish, and knew he'd get his cut from the very start. The PCs are pretty green, and don't really understand how dangerous these people are. Later, one of the PCs, a thief, got a bit big for her britches and, while conversing with Molo, got from me one of the creepiest monologues I've ever delievered as a Judge. He let the PC know that the partnership was for HIS convenience, not theirs; that they were potentially partners, and not partners in fact, and still being tested; and that he could easily remove them from the board, should they disrespect him. Very menacing.

So, the plan is something like this. Wait for the Black Ship to arrive. Take out some of the sailors from the ship. Get on the rolls at the Seaman's Guild, and replace them. Being low-level jamokes, they couldn't do it without aid, and sought the help of Mr. Kratz and his associates. They also sought the help a wizard, one Amor Ba-Gish, a creepy little fucker whose "help" can only be bought for future obligations, not gold. They will owe him a favor, later. To ensure they don't take the ship, he has poisoned them with a toxin that will liquify their innards in exactly 10 days, if they don't return to him for the antidote. He provides them with arcane means to (a) slow time and (b) to make dense fog and (c) to Sleep a ship's crew.

Long story short, the Molo Kratz's guys demonstrated frightening efficiency in taking out the 12 sailors. The PCs managed to pass for competent replacements. Red Tarza, a notorious pirate, was asked to help out. She agreed, for a suitable cut. This negotiation was through Kratz. They also noticed that the Imperial legation included someone who appeared to maybe be a wizard. Hmm... perhaps this is going to be a bit more complicated than they thought... Also, the ship has a contingent of Imperial Marines. I really, really, hope that Sleep concoction the brought aboard is effective. It would be a shame if lots of their potential foes make saving throws, wouldn't it?

Next session: The Heist. If they pull it off, they'll be stupidly rich. They also will contribute to a ridiculously inflated local economy, become high-value criminals hunted by the Empire's thief catchers, be drawn into the machinations of Molo Kratz and Red Tarza, and owe a favor to a particularly nasty wizard. What could go wrong?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rejoice! Zappadan has come!

Greetings to all of you fellow freaks, on this most glorious day of Zappadan. The world is safe once more to Freak Out! Happy birthday, Frank!

How do we celebrate? With my favorite album: Overnite Sensation!

Friday, December 12, 2014

I've Got Your Dervish, Right Here

Well, I went and did it. Here is the Dervish class for Dungeon Crawl Classics. I've take from a variety of sources, for inspiration, including the Ranger class from Crawl! #6, the Thune Dervish from the I-series of modules (thanks, +Jon Hershberger!), but mostly I was trying to figure out what kind of skillset an implacable hunter of men might have, particularly if that hunter was on a holy mission or quest.

 This would be an interesting class to play, but its applicability is somewhat narrow. It would not, for example, fit in well with your gang of murder-hobo tomb raiders. It would, in fact, have to kill them for defiling holy ground. That said, I think that having a whole crew of these guys hunting a powerful necromancer would be a hell of a fun romp.

Give it a look and let me know what you think.

The Dervish
A Player Character Class
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

The Dervish is, at heart, a warrior; but it shares some aspects of the ranger and paladin classes, and even a bit with the monk class, for it is a, most importantly, a holy warrior. The dervish is on a quest for perfection of self, through addition of those traits that are praiseworthy, and purging of those that are corrupt. They believe that all gods are but aspects of a unified godhead, and that through study, diligent practice of bodily disciplines, and asceticism, they may attain unity with the godhead in life. It is of no small consequence that such an attainment leads to extremely long life (for a human), and perhaps, it is said by the greatest dervish master, Larkun Ba'Davi, immortality. However, dervishes are best known to outsiders as implacable holy assassins, men and women who track and bring to justice any who transgress against the godhead, in any of its worldly aspects. Those who defile a holy site, destroy a holy artifact, or loot a tomb on hallowed ground (no matter what weird cult might consider it "holy") should be careful to remain anonymous, lest a dervish band undertake a geas to bring the miscreants to account for their blasphemies.

Hit Die: A dervish gains 1d10 hit points at each level

Alignment: Dervishes are of Neutral alignment in their dealings with those outside their orders, but that's only in matters of religion. They have a very strict code of ethics regarding the sanctity of religion, worship practices, and things and places considered holy, by whatever religion they are considered to be so. Should anyone desecrate, destroy, or otherwise defile something holy (including any burial places), a dervish from the order will swear an oath to bring that person to account. In that sense they are Lawful.

Weapon Training: Dervishes may use any melee weapon, but specialize in the weapon of their particular order. Swords are most common, but some orders use axes, spears, polearms, or even whips or nets. They may use a Deed Die when using this designated weapon, but not when using any other. However, they shun missile weapons, as ranged weapons separate the dervish from the visceral experience of divine justice. Dervishes may wear any armor.

Holy Rite: Each dervish order (there are many) has a particular Holy Rite sacred to its physical disciplines. Some engage in self-flagellataion, some in martial practice with holy weapons, some dance their sacred dances, and some seek the Divine through musical performance. Any player who decides on the dervish class must designate such a physical discipline has his or her Holy Rite.

Lay on Hands: A dervish may Lay on Hands as a cleric, once per day, per level. If the attempt fails, the dervish may not use this power again until he or she conducts a Holy Rite for an hour. Successful attempts will always be applied as if the target is the same alignment as the dervish. However, a dervish also may do so for him- or herself at will, but must take an hour's time to perform his or her Holy Rite (see above). Doing so allows the dervish to heal 1d6 damage per level, or restore 1 point of ability damage per level.

Thieving Skills: The dervish may choose two Thieving Skills from the following list: Sneak Silently, Hide in Shadows, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Pick Lock, Find Trap, Read Languages, Handle Poison, and Cast Spell from Scroll. When attempting these skills, the dervish character applies his or her Deed Die to the roll.

Tracking: A dervish is adept at tracking, and may add the Deed Die to any roll to track a target of divine retribution. Such tracking may involve a physical search for tracks and traces of passage (Intelligence mod applies), but it also might involve inquiries among those who might have seen or encountered what the dervish seeks (Personality mod applies). Tracking doesn't just apply to attempts to track down a defiler of something holy, but to any attempt to seek out a place or thing.

Survival: Dervishes are adept at determining location, finding shelter, starting a fire, and seeking out food and water, even the most desolate and inhospitable climes. They may add their Deed Die to any attempt to do so.

Asceticism: A dervish cares little for material possessions, and what possessions they retain are of a utilitarian nature, usually their holy weapon, some useful equipment, and simple foodstuffs. They do not retain wealth beyond what is required for sustenance, at a meager level, and give away any surplus wealth to those in need (e.g., the poor, an impoverished temple or shrine, a library or repository of knowledge, etc.). A dervish who covets wealth will have his or her Luck reduced by 1 per day until he or she is able to dispose of the treasure in question, and may not simply give it to another party member.

Languages: Dervishes are found in every land, and are renowned travelers. As such, they are able to learn 1d3 additional language per level, beyond those granted by their Intelligence.

Table D-1: Dervish

Deed Die
Crit Die/Table
Action Dice

Dervishes do not use titles, though each is a student to someone who is his or her master. He or she will call that person by the title "master."

Also, in furtherance of my own, personal holy mission, I give you another Zappadan miracle: This fantastic guitar work from that dervish of American music, Frank Zappa.

This is what my dervish character would look like.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Need a Dervish Class

Riffing off of yesterday's post, here's a passage from a book I'm currently reading for my research on the Ottomans:
It was among the dervishes that the babas, scantily clad in animal pelts, with their shaven heads and fondness for loud music, were welcomed with the fewest reservations. (p. 23)
Sounds like punks and metalheads (those who all liked speed and thrash metal, at least) back in the day.

Makes me think I need to create a dervish class for DCC. The baba class might follow, but I think that the Savage class I wrote for last year's Secret Santicore (Vol. 1, I think) would fit that particular bill. Heck, it might do the job for both of these, but I think the dervish would be a bit more like a specialized paladin/sage type.


Faroqui, S. (2007). Subjects of the sultan: Culture and daily life in the Ottoman empire. London: I. B. Tauris.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lacuna Locurae: What is this fantasy/colonial thing?

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical sources to  inspire my thinking about the Lacuna Locurae setting, the island of Magyaru (on which one finds the Imperial port city of the same name). Now, loosely speaking, the Empire is an extension of the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad campaign, but there's a slippage in both style and chronology. Though we're dealing with sort of an "eternal now" approach, with characters from that setting moving back and forth between the campaigns, the "real" time frame is a few hundred years in the future. In European historical terms, we've moved from the medieval times to Renaissance/early-modern times. This is more an issue of technology, context, and tone than it is anything approaching historical accuracy. I'm not aiming to recreate European history, here, but to select elements of various colonial histories that I find interesting and useful for running a game. For this purpose, I've selected several broad models:

  • England
  • Spain
  • France
  • Rome
  • Ottoman Turkey
Again, the goal is not to make them historically accurate, but to cash in on the things that made those colonial powers, and the issues they faced, interesting. Some examples:

The three-headed monster that colonized the Americas (England, France, and Spain) provided some interesting fodder for the setting.
  • Conquest is about seeking riches. In the main, the Spanish were after gold and precious metals, but then established plantations for sugar, indigo, and other things. The French engaged in the fur trade for the same purpose. The English, by and large, cultivated tobacco as their main commodity, but had other commodities (sugar, etc.) in the Carribean.
  • There is a religious, missionary component. The Spanish and French were especially fervent in this regard, but religion was a strong part of the justification for colonization and conquest by all of the European powers. The Temple of Luz the Purifier has played a large part in financing and establishing this colony. They aim to preserve their influence here. Religion at the ground level also is burdened with the common people's folk superstitions and prejudices. Witches and wizards beware.
  • Relations with the native peoples are always a factor, and very complicated. In the real history, diseases brought by European powers to the Americas wiped out about 90% of the native indigenous populations. The idea that these areas consisted of howling wilderness was not true, at least until disease took its toll. In some cases, particularly with the French in the north, the colonists needed the indigenous peoples just as much as those peoples wanted the guns and tools provided by the colonial powers. There was some degree of mutual cooperation. However, they also played different groups of indigenous people off against each other; this dynamic sometimes was employed by the native peoples as well. The Spanish model was very different. Their nobility sought to get rich, establish repute, and aggrandize itself through conquest (and the acquisition of precious metals). They were often brutal and ruthless. Later, their missionaries moderated (to a limited extent) these practices, but not often and not enough. By that time, diseases had taken their toll. The English were, in a word, arrogant. They expected the natives to roll over for them, and the fact that they didn't was proof that conquest was necessary.
  • The lower classes had opportunities in the New World they didn't have in Europe. An English indentured servant, for example, could hope to receive an acreage in the colonies, to become a landowner. Land ownership policies in England (esp. "enclosure") had been eating away at this prerogative for many years. This was also reflected in the military, especially the navy.
  • Piracy became an issue (as is the use of privateers). The on-again/off-again wars between these powers provided a surplus of able-bodied seamen, and they gained experience with taking and plundering ships. When the wars were over, many employed those very particular skillsets for other purposes (i.e., piracy). The colonial powers all spent time stealing from each other, just as they stole from the New World's native peoples.
  • There's a level of lawlessness due to the tenuous control of the center over the periphery (though this varies over time, and due to circumstances). The competence, honesty, and loyalty of colonial governors, viceroys, etc., was not always assured, and this made life in the colonies somewhat chaotic in terms of how government got conducted. Further, there often were differences between "official" policies, especially toward other governments' colonies and the native peoples, and what those on the scene actually did. Later, this would result in rebellion over local control, taxation, etc.
  • The interests of the Church, the nobility, the Crown, the merchant classes and the commoners often run at odds with each other. This creates a great deal of internal tension. While the colonial Governor is, ostensibly in charge, power must be shared in order for the colony to thrive. How that sharing occurs is a matter of constant dispute, with the potential for violent disagreement simmering below a polite and respectful surface.
These are just a few of the Western European elements that I find useful as context for Magayru. Rome also provides great fodder.

My model of the native peoples of Magyaru springs more from Pictish/Gaelic roots than from the indigenous American peoples. In part this is because I'm fascinated by the Roman experience in Britain, as well as the interactions between the Vikings and the Britons. I'm also interested in "flipping" the usual visual imagery of colonialism. The "savage" native peoples in this setting are pale-skinned ("They look like demons!"), and the Imperials are more like Mediterranean Romans and Ottoman Turks. In my mind, Ur-Hadad of the Metal Gods universe is more closely associated with Turkey and Eastern Europe than with Tolkien's more Western/Northern European aesthetic. Mostly, this is cosmetic, I'll admit. However, I think it proves more jarring to may players who associate colonialism with an American model rather than a Roman model. I think the combination of the two is interesting and useful in fantasy/colonial role-play. Also, the "colonists" are from warm and sunny climes, and Magyaru is a cold, dark, and gloomy land, mountainous and covered in great forests, crisscrossed by rivers, and filled with ancient standing stones, barrows, and ruins. It is a far grimmer place.

Finally, there is my weird idea of Turkey/Hungary. To be clear, it is in this area that a diverge from history the most. I like the idea of a powerful ruler, a cultured and educated, cosmopolitan empire. A certain level of decadence combined with a sense of cultural superiority. In this sense, my Empire owe as much to Robert Howard's Hyperboria as it does to whatever historical sources I might be reading. It also owes much to Adam Muszkiewicz and my interpretations of Ur-Hadad as an idea (perhaps more than a place). Also, in the background, there is the history of the World that Went Before, which includes all manner of fantasy races and tropes, sorcery, and so forth. So, it's not Turkey and it's not Eastern Europe, but it does filtch heavily from aesthetic and other elements that might be found there.

Add on top of these things, and the Howardian influence, the presence of Poe, Hawthorne, and Lovecraft, and you get a sense of where I'm trying to take this. I'm really enjoying playing in this sandbox, and seeing how the players interact with it and add to it. I think of this as an open world, and do my best to make sure the people who play in it are able to influence it.

Also, for our Zappadan offering, I offer this 1973 concert in Stockholm. Dig the grooviness of 1970s Sweden. Glorious!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Zappadan Mea Culpa

See, this is why religion is so difficult. You keep faith with FZ by making sure to listen to music with guitars; you listen to difficult music, music you can't quite dance to; you embrace the absurdities of life with a sense of amusement and wonder; and you try to maintain conceptual continuity through all the vicissitudes of life. You try really hard, but sometimes you fail to keep the faith. Forgive me Frank. What? You're too busy pissing in Jerry Falwell's face to worry about the little shit? Okay, then. Thanks, man, you're a mensch. So how about a little tune? How about a whole concert?

Mothers of Invention, live at the Fillmore East (November 13, 1970)

Happy Zappadan, people. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I am not worthy

I suck

The first day of Zappadan was two day ago. Fuck.

You motherfuckers will pay tomorrow.

A Rickety Mass Combat System

A while back, I had a chance to look at +Harley Stroh's draft of a mass combat system for DCC RPG. It made me think. He'd used existing ideas (e.g. hit points as "army points," wizard duel rules for combat momentum, the viscitudes of battle, and so forth). I was intrigued by the system, even though he's not particularly satisfied with it at this point, because it satisfies a need I see in both Peril on the Purple Planet and the Against the Atomic Overlord adventure I've written on for Goodman Games (which will be out sometime in 2015). While mass combat is not explicitly included in either adventure, there's strong possibility that it could come into play, depending on what the PCs do. So here are a few ideas of my own. I don't think they're better than Harley's mind you, but they do present another possible approach.

Anyway, some preliminary ideas.

Treating Units and Battle Conditions Like Characters

Each unit on the battlefield gets treated as a character. That is, the unit has a class, stats, armor class, hit points, saving throws, movement, etc. as a player character (or NPC). The units themselves should be treated as one of the martial classes (Warrior or Dwarf). These two classes have distinct functions on the battlefield (see below in class descriptions). Other classes might be used to establish battlefield conditions, or to attach a special power to an existing martial unit, sort like Aspects in the Fate system: They reflect a condition attached to the unit, instead of the unit itself. I'll explain this further, in a bit.

So, functionally, it might break down something like this.

Warriors (normal unit)
  • These are the main representations of combat units. Just use as standard warrior of appropriate level.
  • Hit points could be rolled or assigned as normal. Alternately, they might be a way to "buy" units (i.e., you get cheaper more plentiful units at 1 hp per level, then cost ascends from there). 
  • Level of unit is measure of its veterancy. Veteran units get more hit points and are more formidable in combat. For mass combat there should be a limit on level, however. I think levels 1 to 3 are probably sufficient, though I suppose arguments could be made to make truly elite units with higher levels.
  • Armor class is translatable to light (AC 10-12), medium (AC 13-15), or heavy (AC 16-18) troops, with associated to-hit numbers, and with standard effects on movement (even with mounted units).
  • Weaponry should simply translate straight across. What are they carrying? If mixed weapons, then take the median or mode average result. If special weapons (e.g., missile weapons, pole weapons or spears), then make sure those advantages get reflected in the way they are used (e.g., pike against cavalry, missile weapon ranged attacks, etc.).
  • Number of attacks per round (a function of level) would always just be 1, but the die rolled might go up or down the dice chain for veteran troops. So, a "Level 1" unit rolls a lower die than a "Level 2" unit. I'd probably use a d16/d20/d24 dice chain for green/blooded/veteran units, respectively. For truly elite troops, I'd hesitate to use a d30, but would opt, instead, for a fixed bonus of +1 or +2.
  • You could even use Mighty Deeds in various ways: A Mighty Deed of Command to rally troops, a Mighty Deed of Arms to bolster attack or defense for a round.
  • Cavalry units are a special case, and are discussed below.
Dwarves (special unit/battlefield condition)
  • As units, a Dwarf represents siege weaponry. It is a ranged unit.
  • As a battlefield condition the Dwarf represents some kind of fortifications.
  • Their attacks represent siege weapon attacks, and their shield bashes represent how well fortifications protect troops in cover.
  • Siege weapon units are the only things on the battlefield that can attack fortifications.
  • Siege weapon units also can attack other martial units.
  • Damage against them reduces them on their attack/defense dice chain. The levels at which this happens, I'm not so sure about. Maybe 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, etc.
Clerics (battlefield condition)
  • These are something attached to a regular (warrior) unit, like a group of cultists (if spells are to be employed) or a medical corps (if using the Lay on Hands ability). I think I'd make the person using the Cleric in this way pick one or the other of these powers.
  • The cultist condition allows the unit to employ a limited array of spells. Probably Bless and Curse are the main ones, though Holy Sanctuary, Protection from Evil and others are appropriate.
  • The medical corps condition allows the unit to heal itself and/or any adjacent units, once per combat round.
  • Level of cleric can affect casting rolls as normal.
  • Disapproval range works as normal.
Thieves (special unit or battlefield condition)

  • Thieves are special units that could be treated as scouts or even (potentially) assassins. 
  • As a unit, they would be statted as thieves, including armor, hit points, etc.
  • They are effective only when they can remain hidden. To scout effectively, they must use stealth, represented by a die roll, depending on the sort of action attempted (i.e., Sneak Slightly for movement or Hide in Shadows for remaining hidden from the foe until they can best be employed). 
  • To attempt to assassinate an NPC Leader (see "Leadership by Player Characters and NPCs," below) they must both accomplish a stealthy action (i.e., Sneak or Hide) as well as make a successful Backstab.
  • Whether successful or not, the assassin is always sacrificed by this action.
Wizards and Elves

I see no reason why wizards and elves need to be treated as mass combat units, like the martial units. They are powerful enough, especially in circles of mages, to be used simply as PCs or NPCs. That said, they would function as mass combat "units" for purposes of their use in mass combat.
  • They must target a specific unit to achieve a spell effect. 
  • It might be that the array of spells used in mass combat should be restricted to a limited list of offensive and defensive spells.
  • They can also be targeted as distinct mass combat units, and probably should have the combined hit points of all the wizards/elves in the circle.
  • Any spell corruption or misfire will affect ALL the members of the circle.
  • Casting times are increased by 1 round per additional wizard/elf in the circle; however, each member of the circle beyond the first adds a bonus equivalent to his/her caster level, up to +3.


I have no idea how I would use Halfling units, but welcome your suggestions.

Mounted Combat: Cavalry and Pikes

Warrior units may be designated as cavalry. They get the benefits of being mounted for movement and combat purposes (see DCC RPG rulebook, pp. 87 and 418). Just treat the unit as if it were a mounted warrior.

These mounted units should be designated as light or heavy. Light cavalry is faster and lightly armored. It can perform Mighty Deeds in character with its nature (e.g., the Parthian shot). Heavy cavalry is slower, more heavily armored, and can perform Mighty Deeds in character with its capabilties (e.g., greatly enhanced damage on a charge).

Those defending against cavalry might also be able to prepare the ground to receive cavalry (i.e., by using Dwarves as a battlefield condition), or by equipping a particular unit with appropriate weaponry (e.g., pikes, which might get the same damage benefit as a lance does, but in the opposite direction).

Finally, cavalry might be designated as a scout unit. It would be statted as a mounted Thief. I could see ways in which the Sneak Silently and Hide in Shadows, or even the Backstab rules might be employed for such a unit, but the player or NPC would need to use terrain to achieve surprise in such cases.

Leadership by Player Characters and NPCs

It may be that you want your PCs to be able to take part in this mass combat, as commanders of units or of the whole army. Such a course of action comes with significant benefits, but also with significant risk.

First, the PC or PCs in question must be attached to one or more of the combat units. In all cases, the unit in question must be either a warrior or dwarf unit, usually a warrior.

To provide a leadership benefit to that unit, the player character makes a d20 roll, modified by Personality. Warriors and Dwarves add Personality mod and Deed Die roll to total. Other PC classes add just the Personality mod. In addition, the martial PCs can attempt a Deed of some kind in mass combat. For example, "I drive my unit forward, hitting the center of the foe's line. I want to try to split her unit," or "I wheel the light cavalry to retreat from the charging foe, and attempt a Parthian shot." Like regular Deeds, the main limit is the player's (or GM's) imagination, but in this particular case the Deed should be conceived in terms of mass rather than individual combat.

Only units with PCs/NPCs attached to units already in play get this benefit. However, these PCs/NPCs also take damage when their units are damaged, putting them in peril of dying if things go badly.


Anyway, there you go. That's my "first draft" version of a mass combat system for DCC RPG. I welcome your feedback. What am I missing? What could be added? What are some potential problems with my approach? Let me know.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lacuna Locurae Play Session Report 6: We're gonna be rich, I tell ya! Rich!

Most of this session consisted of a very large battle with clay soldiers, their generals, and their warlord. The PCs concentrated on keeping the enemy forces bottled up in the main room, while some of their number retreated to the upper chamber to snipe at them through the newly opened hole in the ceiling, where the pool once had stood. It took some time, but they were, eventually, victorious. The two wizards wrangled over the crystal ball they found by the throne, and eventually decided who got it by die roll. Harris Patter, girl wizard, was disappointed. It may however, redound to her advantage, in the end.

They searched the room pretty thoroughly, and found a secret door. After some very careful dungeoneering, checking for all manner of perils, they went through. There, they discovered a room with what seemed to be both the contents of a warlord's field tent (camp chair, pallet,etc.) and an arcane circle with a bier in the center of it. Upon the bier rested the dessicated remains of the warlord in question. He was dead-dead, not un-dead, though some of the party feared he might rise to begin smiting them. Given how well they'd managed the previous encounter (awesome die rolling, despite a magic missile misfire almost killing the party's thief. Again.), I probably should have done something fun with the corpse, but it was approaching the end of the session, and both they and I were battle-weary.

The wizard with the crystal ball soon figured out that one might place said item in a concavity at the foot of the bier. Though there was some trepidation, they ultimately "pressed the Big Red Button" by inserting the crystal sphere. The result: A potential patron:
Gazing into the crystal ball, you see an endless field of bright stars on a faint gray background. A ghostly image of the warwizard drifts in the star-strewn ether, perfectly still. Then a harsh goat-like face fills the full sphere, staring intently at you. “I have waited a long time for someone to take the warlord’s place,” says the strange goat-man in a deep voice. “His astral voyage was cut short before he could rekindle the spark of his mortal coil. I am still in need of an ally on your world. Fill this copper brazier with wood from a dryad’s tree and ignite it with the spark of a living fire. The blaze will reveal the location of the other half of the rulership rod. Find that for me, and you shall be rewarded.” Then the globe dims to mere crystal. (DCC Core Rulebook, p. 456)
I believe they intend to follow through on this quest at some point, but first they had a golden monolith to deal with.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of Harris Patter's spells has the mercurial effect of turning one random item to lead and another one to gold. I altered the function a bit for dramatic license, and had it affect two standing stones of immense girth and heft. They clearly couldn't carry the whole thing, given their rickety cart, which conveyance they'd brought from Hirot. So, after emerging from the dungeon, they discussed what they might do, ultimately deciding to hack off chunks of gold from the former megalith. It is, of course, sacred to the native peoples of this land, whose shamans will, no doubt, attempt to trigger a holy war of some kind against this outrage. That should be fun. I may need some mass combat rules...

After some discussion, I allowed that they could probably carry (and still be able to hide) about three hundred pounds of gold (leaving some 21,700 pounds behind, unattended in the barrowlands, soon to be found by natives). I recon that the gold coins of this realm aren't particularly large, and run about 20 coins to the pound. They have, then, roughly 6,000 gold pieces, should the gold be minted into coinage. That's a lot of gold. However, given that this is a silver standard economy, it's a stupidly large amount of gold, and it's not already in coin or bar form. They will need to get someone to exchange it for credit, equivalent value, or to mint it into bars or coins. That could prove both tricky and dangerous, and might draw the attention of many, many people in Magyaru, some of them powerful, some dangerous, and some... both. It will be a miracle if the party manages to hold onto their booty, and their necks.

Further, it may soon be revealed what happened out in the barrowlands, and why the natives are restless. They may soon lay siege to the city, coming with their war chariots, painted in woad, ready to burn and pillage, their holy men primed for revenge against those who would trifle with the very spirits of the land and sky. It might get pretty tricky for a group of low-level adventurers caught up in a situation like that. It certainly might... We'll have to see how that works out, because they've decided it's time to make the final steps of their voyage to Magyaru. They're all free people now, with no records of slavery or indenture to bind those laboring under such things. They have plenty of wealth, and a lust for power and glory. We shall see what is possible in Magyaru. It certainly won't be what they expected, in the end, though it may seem so to begin with.

On top of it all, I'm actually running a new game on Sundays, with a whole different group of people. It's set in the same world, and I've decided that the different groups will have to live with the consequences of actions of both. It should prove most amusing to watch how the chips fall. Mua! Muaha! Muhahaha! MUAHAHAHAHA! <--That's supposed to be my evil laugh.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lacuna Locurae Play Session Reports (4 & 5): Things change, things stay the same

Sorry for the long delay between posts. Partly me being Dr. Lazybones and partly me being Dr. Lazybones because work's been kicking my ass. Will try to do better.

Anyhow, when last we left our adventurers, the town of Hirot was in an uproar. The peasants were revolting!

The genius of Mel Brooks continues to astound.

The Yamash and his bodyguard had returned to the longhouse to armor up and 'get swole' in preparation for some good ol' fashion oppression (Iron Fist included!). The town's uppity merchants determined that three feet of steel through the brisket was not particular fun or healthy, so they decided it might be better to attempt negotiation. Accompanied by some of the PCs they held parley with the Yamash. 

They had high hopes to instill some of this new "democracy" thing into Hirot's political order, but the Yamash was not having it. He explained, very succinctly, that it wouldn't be happening. First, he would go down fighting. Then, he explained, rumors would make their way to Magyaru. The Governor would be obliged to send troops to quell the uprising. The leaders would be found, and summarily executed for treason. A new yamash would be installed, and it would be one less reasonable than himself. So, whatcha gonna do? Cometh thou at me, bros!

Still, he allowed, he would be willing to take advice from the wisest of these elders, and consider their council. The Yamash permitted that three of them would be assigned to such a body. These selfless merchants, seeing how such an arrangement could benefit them (and, of course, 'trickle down' upon the peasantry--like a good piss), knuckled under and proclaimed his wisdom. 

The PCs, of course, now found themselves on the outside of this arrangement. They also were not well rewarded for the killing of the Hound, having participated in the aborted rebellion. Tough luck, people. Tough luck. So, they decided to venture into the Barrowlands to seek fortune. They also hoped, perhaps, to find that scoundrel Sylle Ru, who had scarpered off to parts unknown when his political fortunes had gone pear-shaped. I have a feeling we'll be seeing him again...

First, though, they had a date with the witch Ymae. For honoring the agreement, one PC received a nifty, golden shirt (as chainmail with fire protection) before the old lass went and broke his heart. He will soldier on, somehow. That done, they did their best to arm up, provision themselves, and the players leveled their zeroes up.

Leveling up took a while (two wizards and a cleric), and the mercurial magics thus gained were more of the "annoying and funny" type than the "awesome" or "oh, hell no" varieties. One such  case would prove consequential later, in the Barrowlands. Thus fortified, they marched out of Hirot, bound for gold and glory. Or at least gold, they hoped.


The PCs marched into the hills and mounds of the Barrowlands, bypassing one obvious adventure hook (the Tomb of the Ulfheomar), before finding a Shiny Red Button. The Button in question was found in a narrow defile leading up to the cliffline, well north of Hirot. A causeway led toward the cliffs, barrows on each side. At the cliffs themselves they found a circle of standing stones and an altar (most likely used for terrible rites by the demonic, pale-skinned devils who inhabit this land). Above the altar was a weird carving, embedded with seven colored stones, in various parts of the design. One of the PCs, an astrologer by trade, figured out that this represented a constellation. This particular configuration of the constellation in question didn't quite match what was in the sky. However, being far from the shores of the Empire proper, the stars were not quite the same. Nonetheless, he determined that the stars were not quite "right," in comparison to the design. However, by their colors, the stones were misplaced. They needed to be shifted in the design to match the constellation in question. So, of course, they fucked with it.

Pretty quickly they found that touching the stones resulted in a point of ability drain (five of them, one for each ability). They took turns. They also found one that drained 1d3 hit points. Then, feeling optimistic, the party's thief climbed to the top part of the design, to seize the final stone. It zapped him for 3d6 hit points (hehe, silly thief). Your humble Judge, naturally, given his proclivities with dice, completely failed to kill the erstwhile character, rolling only five damage and bringing him down to two hit points. Stones in hand, they reinserted them, arranged them in the proper order, and a magical portal opened in the cliffside. 

Oh, I nearly forgot. One of the party's wizards, one Harris Patter, has this mercurial effect for one of her spells:

Accidental alchemist. Each time the spell is cast, one random item within 20 feet of the caster is turned to lead and another is turned to gold. Both objects probably weigh more than they previously did, and the gold object is worth twice its normal cost or 1gp, whichever is more.
She decided to cast that spell (I forget exactly which). I determined that her spell had affected two of the standing stones, turning one to lead and one to gold. Some work with the calculator suggested that something in the order of 22,000 kg of gold, all of one piece, stuck way the fuck out in the hinterlands. Good luck getting that back to town. Good luck getting any more of it, once the natives discover you've been desecrating their sacred circles. Dickish? Nope (okay, maybe). Anyway, this is DCC RPG, and this is how we do that shit.

They entered the portal and found a short hallway and a door. They opened the door, leading to a room beyond. Four iron statues with spears attacked the doorway, but only one character was wounded. They gathered up the spears and stripped the statues of their elaborate, enameled scale mail (That shit looked pretty tight, ya see). Thus equipped, they entered the next room.

There, they found a large (30' tall) statue, its finger pointing toward the doorway (J'accuse!). Long story short, they figured out pretty quickly that attempting to leave the room meant getting doused with flaming oil. Several of them were thus attacked, but none died (much to my chagrin). Eventually, they bum-rushed the northern doorway and found a long room with a pool of water. They also found several weird humanoids, who approached their light sources, but otherwise seemed uninterested in them. They (wisely) did not attack.

One of the PCs noticed that the bottom of the pool was studded with "glowing" crystals. He decided to remove a few, and then a few more. At one point, the floor began to buckle, so he curtailed his activities. The party had found a door in the northeast, at that point, so they moved on. A stairway led downward, into a room with a big table with a host of martial figurines upon it, and in alcoves and on shelves in other parts of the room. A search revealed that several of these were made of solid silver, with a sheath of clay. They got a bit richer.

Then, they moved into the next room. There, they encountered an army of clay, a clay warlord, and seven clay generals. The host attacked! That's when things went haywire. Fucking wizards. Fucking mercurial magic. One PC wizard has a mercurial that causes terror. The warlord got skeered, and went to hide behind his throne. Much of the clay army had been degraded by the leaking ceiling (from the pool above, with its missing crystals), but there were far too many to fight. The party dropped back to use the doorway as a choke point. One of the PCs ran back up the stairs to attempt to collapse the ceiling/pool bottom into the clay army. Some good rolling ended in success, and about 30 of them were crushed outright. Others dissolved in the water. Still something like 26 of he statues managed to get out of the low area in which they stood. Their generals are still standing, and the warlord remains cowering behind his throne. Soon, though, he will recover, and then they will be fucked, well and truly.

That's where we ended last time.