Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Saturday Night Keep: The Setup

At the beginning of each era, the gods of light and darkness decide upon a race that will have dominance over all the world. The gods are fickle, however, and inevitably their creations fail them in some fashion and are cast into decline. The dragons, the giants, the dwarves, the elves... all of them have had their empires and golden ages, and all of them are now hermits and vagabonds living in shadow and memory. This is the era in which humans have been given dominion over the world. The dwarves ruled from below the earth, the elves from within the Eldewood, the giants from their mountain castles and the dragons from the very skies, but humankind has chosen to carve their realms out of the very heart of the land. An island of settlements in the center of a dark world, humans push the monsters and the remnants of the old times farther and farther out into the fringe. They build keeps on their borders to hold back the chaos. Those who chafe under this new age of civilization make for these keeps, places from which they can escape the Holy Church, the tax collectors, and a life spent pursuing an honest trade.

This Keep has no name. It sits uneasily on the border of the Old Kingdom and the Eldewood. Here you will find opportunists, vagrants, fugitives, madmen, treasure seekers, fanatics, and pariahs. Some seek to plunder the riches of the Old Kingdom, some to slay the monsters, some to avoid the toil and tedium of civilized life. Most of them will end up broken, dead, or imprisoned. Some will end up wealthy, perhaps enough so that they can elude a common life.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

5th Edition Keep on the Borderlands, Part II

Tonight I ran a 5th ed game for the same two players from my Sunday game. In addition, they brought a friend who had never played before. (Though she is familiar with WoW and other forms of nerdery, so the concepts were not completely foreign to her.)

I switched some of the monsters, mainly because the comparative power levels in 5th edition are different. An ogre, for instance, has far more hit points, so I swapped it out with an ogrillon.

The party learned that casting thunderwave is a terrible idea in a cramped series of tunnels, especially one patrolled by various humanoid guards. While this lead to some unnecessary combat, it also lead them to discover a trapdoor I placed under the rubbish in room #2. (For those of you with the module...)

Since my Friday game hasn't run in over a month and isn't running this coming Friday, I've pretty much come to a conclusion: Top down campaign design is a waste of time. The more time I put into developing a campaign world, the less screen time it gets.

My campaign background for Keep is a paragraph at most, even with my changes to it.

It's interesting to see how the generation after me games. I've noticed that the party doesn't hire henchmen or hirelings, but rather seek out one or two NPCs to fill specific gaps in the party. They also do not attempt to parley with the monsters at all. This may get them into trouble later in the caves, though their ability to take advantage of bottlenecks has served them well.

Shade Isle campaign continues tomorrow.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Keep on the Borderlands as Wretched Hive, Perpetual Distraction, and Impatience

This weekend turned into a D&D double header.

While my quickly fading "Fables of Albadia" game didn't run on Friday, I ended up running some last minute 5e at a place called Underground Gaming with two of the folks from John's Sunday game. I ran a modified Keep on the Borderlands for them, where the Keep wasn't a bastion from which brave adventurers strike out at Chaos, but rather the armpit of civilization where scoundrels and ne'er do wells gather to try and make a buck scavenging the treasures of the Old Kingdom. Sadly we didn't get very far, but we can always continue it later.

Sunday was John's game, but I must confess I was distracted to the point where I was barely there. The beginning of a new school year has me scrambling about as usual, and my mind was consumed with lesson plans and revised syllabi and emergency plans in case I die or whatever and my gradebook wasn't set up.... blah blah teacher problems. I'll do better next week. Henrik, my character, killed a bunch of stuff with his machine gun. I'll do better next week, hopefully as everything falls into place this week.

We're supposed to return to BTS this Thursday, so I'm looking forward to that. My Friday game isn't running, so perhaps Friday or Saturday I'll run some more Keep on the Borderlands: Sketchy Edition. (I may have neglected to mention, but I ran it using 5th edition rules. ) Sunday will be John's game and hopefully my head won't be in the clouds again.

Bottom line: I should take my work email off of my phone. 

I've emailed Monte Cook Games because the Cypher rulebook I ordered 6 days ago is still "processing." I'm hoping it will ship soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Save vs. Bleh

Not a great week for gaming.

Thursday game is just character building for the new guys, so I'm sitting it out tonight. D&D 5e is cancelled again and my enthusiasm for it is fading slightly, given that we've played it exactly once in the last month. I still have the Sunday game to look forward to, though, and next week Thursdays should be back to BTS and Fridays will hopefully resume.

I keep getting things from Christian in the mail and I dig them. Most welcome distractions from pre-approved credit card offers and pizza place coupons and shit I keep getting from the AARP even though I'm 33.

I keep getting pirate-streaming clickbait spam comments from some douche named Delowara Begum, who is either a spambot or just and enormous fuckwad. I have no idea how to block him and it's kind of pissing me off.

I ordered the Cypher System core book as an early birfday present to myself. I wanted to buy it from a local gaming store, but none of the four I went to had it... even the one that stocks almost every product for Numenera and The Strange. I need another game system like I need a sucking chest wound, but it's a beautiful looking book and I like a lot of the design mechanisms I've seen in Numenera. (I haven't even taken the plastic off of my copy of The Strange. I rule.)

Finally, two missives of crankiness:

1. I'm just not that into you, Forgotten Realms. We flirted a couple of times when I was in high school but you just aren't that interesting.

2. Fucking everything has Cthulhu in it. Blah blah tentacles blah blah insanity blah blah horrible things from beyond time and blah. What else you got?

See you guys next week.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Thousand Dead Babies and One Wiped Party

Last night, one of my three 5th edition players was unable to make the game, so I decided to run a one-shot instead. I settled on a modified version of LotFP as the system and A Thousand Dead Babies as the module. 

They died. They still kind of won, but they died. 



Spoilers follow. Ye have been warned.


The party consisted of a cleric-witchfinder and her warrior companion. The two of them were summoned by Father MacKenzie to help him root out the rumors of witchcraft and demon worship around Carroc. 

The PCs did pretty well for most of the adventure. They managed to investigate the right people and places. The warrior did discover Father MacKenzie's little affair, but he was sympathetic to the good Father and kept a lid on it, even from his companion. 

Our cleverboots heroes managed to actually get the drop on the Goat of the Woods, ambushing him while he was being carried toward the ritual with the baby. A daring parkour move accompanied by a natural 20 allowed the warrior to wrest the baby from the Goat's surprised hands, followed by a perfectly placed arrow to one of the cultists bearing the sedan, dumping the Goat and allowing them to escape. They managed to slip back to the church and give the baby over to the priest before going back into the woods to try and take care of bid'ness. 

The party manged to lure the Goat away from his followers and ambush him, killing him quickly. Evading the cultists, they decided they were going to ambush and slay the Black Knight. What they didn't realize is part of their victory over the Goat was the fact that I couldn't roll higher than a 6 on his attack rolls. 

Although equipped with a number of cleric spells that would've been immensely helpful in slaying the Black Knight, the players were tired OOC and it was getting late, so they decided just to attack the Black Knight straight up. While they did a lot better than I thought, even bringing the Black Knight to less than 50% hit points. he rolled snakeeyes on a morale check and and fought to the death... the death, of course, being our poor player characters. 

In the aftermath, the Goat was slain and the cult dispersed. They never found any of the druidic pagans, so the status quo stayed the same. With the bassinet ownerless, it remains hidden in the woods, hopefully never to be found. The one surviving baby is in the care of the Father and will probably become an acolyte of the Holy Church. Father MacKenzie also sent for another witchfinder to figure out who was in the cult, so there are some potentially dark times ahead for Carroc...not that it really concerns the PCs anymore, since they're buried behind the town's church.

My Lamentations one-offs always seem to have bittersweet/grim endings. Go figure. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In Which I Download Some Stuff From Neoplastic Press

Earlier today I received an email from Neoplastic Press announcing several sales and freebies. I ended up grabbing Lusus Naturae, The Starship From Hell, and ViewScream.

Lusus Naturae is a monster book for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, though you could use it with pretty much any OSR type game without a lot of fuss. LN is filled with fucked up monsters that make absolutely no sense and completely own it. Many of them are cool, but some get kind of samey. Ah, another four legged centipede thing with vaginas for eyes and if you kill it the campaign world ends. Don't get me wrong, it's good, but I can only do so many variations on the Abstract Unrelenting Horror thing before I start getting a bit numb to it. The monsters in this book are, IMO, best used sparingly in a campaign where most of the antagonists are humans or animals. A good portion of the monsters are unique entities. For the present price of $6.66 (yes, we see what you did there) it's a good buy. 

The Starship From Hell is a delightful system-neutral generator that gives you the classic "starship in distress," with a lot of damned interesting premises. It's very Lamentations-flavored and has some implied setting details, (most of which point to a baroque and fairly awful universe) but with a little replacement of proper nouns you could drop this mofo into Stars Without Number, X-Plorers... hell, you could rock any non-OSR sci-fi game with this. It's actually my favorite of the three downloads today and is presently Free Ninety-Nine, if you know what I'm saying. 

ViewScream is a live action RPG meant to be played over Hangouts or Skype or something where you can see the other players as faces on a view screen. I'm actually not so much interested in playing or running this as I am in studying it. It's presently free because Mister Chandler is working on a second edition.

I dig on Chandler. His stuff is crazy gross metal, so if you're not really into that, his work probably isn't your jam. However, his work is clever and visceral and it isn't schlock for the sake of schlock. 

This stuff isn't my first Chandler rodeo. I also have No Salvation for Witches (a module he wrote for LotFP) and Pandemonio. (A squicky horror/action game using only d12s!) 

On a totally unrelated note, my Middle Eastern-flavored 5th edition game continues on Friday, with the party exploring the abandoned (?) ruins of the poisoners' guild hideout north of Agrama. 


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Shade Isle Campaign, 8/9

Delving further into the Trials in Shade Abbey, our group ran across puzzles and combat. One of the puzzles was color-based and was embarrassingly difficult for our group.

One was a language puzzle, which as an English teacher I'm kind of ashamed I didn't get.

My character, Henrik, killed 23 stirges in one round, thanks to geometry. And explosives.

Henrik obtained a new machine gun, which he has dubbed Harvester.

Our poor gnome Connor, a green wizard, just kept taking damage. I think he took enough damage to kill Henrik several times over.

Tonight I did a lot of thinking about my character. The game John runs is an exploration-heavy sandbox...a hex crawl filled with dungeon crawls, if you will. While his NPCs are colorful and fully realized, I find that our party is a bit...blank when it comes to roleplaying, motivations, etc. However, as I spent time this session reflecting on how my play style has changed, I figured out that he does have a little bit of development to him:

-He's an abject coward, except when he can safely massacre groups of enemies from a distance with his various technological devices.
-While he used to be interested in history and architecture, he has slowly morphed to become interested only by revenge and the acquisition of more technology, particularly weaponry.
-He disapproves of torture and destruction he deems unnecessary, but will firebomb a room full of Shade Abbey cultists without a second thought.
-Henrik shows no sense of camaraderie or kinship with any other members of the party. While not hostile or unpleasant, he is distant from all of them, preferring to work with them only on a professional basis. This might be exacerbated by the deaths of various NPCs that he was fond of. In fact, the only person Henrik displays actual friendliness toward is Kayla Kleckenklamp, the chief alchemist/engineer of Dammendal. (Yes John, I know I've mangled your spellings and left out umlauts and various other accents. I might also have messed up Kleckenklamp's first name. Yolo.)

So here we have a guy who was once a pretty harmless scholar, interested mostly in academic things. The harsh realities of life on Shade Isle, and his bitterness at having been exiled for having "superior" scientific insight have changed him. Having no use for theory, his view on technology is now extremely practical. On Shade Isle, that usually means building a bigger weapon. He dreams of massive engines of destruction with which he can revenge himself on the Black Prince of Dolheim. He's no longer interested in making friends, since they often die horribly. He sees the rest of the party as business partners working together for mutual gain. He finds the arrangement suitable.