Aug 29, 2008


Good day folks! After being passed the proverbial carnival torch, I have decided to choose a topic that is guaranteed (I hope) to get some cool posts. Homebrew, I choose you!

What exactly is homebrew? I have deliberately left the field wide open for this. In my many years of gaming, I have come across many different games...I daresay not a single one has had any resemblance to the next, even when running the same adventures!

THIS is what makes our game so unique. As such, I want to hear about what you do differently from the "established" canon or fluff. Tell me about your gameworld. Tell me about your unique BBEG. Tell me about your characters, classes, or even spells. Doesn't matter. I just want to hear about what you do that makes the game yours. I challenge all participants to bring your weirdest, craziest, most "only in your world" stuff they got.

To start, I want to share a story (and some fluff) about the first game I ever played in. It was an existing homebrew world called Paetheon. It was the most ludicrously high magic game I have ever seen, then or since. In fact, I will specifically tell you about the high magic part.

In Paetheon, the gods are intimately involved in many aspects of day to day life. As such, their "closeness" gives their worshipers special "power words" that can be used by ANY class that chooses to tithe 10% of their earned xp to them. Here is an example of a typical worshipper of Abyssia, goddess of murder and betrayal (think Cyric meets Takhisis minus the dragons)

Power words: NOTE - These powers are all available at first level! They gain power as you you.

  • Damn - Essentially a doom spell before it existed. -1 to all rolls per level of the user.

  • Wither - As the withering effect from the staff of withering - doing CON damage.

  • Rot - Instantly destroys all non-sentient organic matter in a 10'/level radius. Damages sentients based on relative level/hit dice. Survivors are diseased.

  • Die - renders unconscious or kills ALL creatures (friend or foe) within a 10'/level radius.

  • Pact - The source of power for most evil characters. Summons an infernal being that witnesses a blood pact between the summoner and another willing participant. Excellent role-playing element!

  • Raise - Raises undead in the local area, level dependent as to type and number.

  • Smite - self explanatory

These are most of them, and they were shared by a couple of other gods in that part of the pantheon (Death, Disease, etc.). The oddballs were the dragon gods that allowed ascension to dragon form, and the opposed olidmarra clones (light and dark side of thievery) that had a bazillion powers related to daggers in specific. Note that these powers ALL scale with level. I remember the GM saying several times that a deathmaster of Hageth (god of death) could climb atop a mountain and whisper die - killing every living thing as far as the eye could see! Needless to say, my "red folder" has about 15 or so PC's that died quick deaths in that world.

So here we have an example of a most definitely NOT typical fantasy gameworld. Wood elves were close to 9 feet tall, and fired bows as big as they were (for x4 dmg at close range!). It was an incredible experience, and I feel richer for being involved in it. Sadly, I haven't seen or heard from those folks in over a decade, but the memories remain.

How about the rest of you? Have a completely (or not so completely) homebrew schtick that you'd like to share? bring it, wait wait wait...This ain't sparta!


Aug 28, 2008

So when did YOU become a satanist?

Funny thing is, I can't seem to figure out when I became one. Was it when I first opened the Forgotten Realms Adventures book? Maybe the first time I dared look inside of a DMG? Hmmm...I'll have to do some soul searching here....but I digress.

After reading a funny article (and accompanying video) over at: I did a google search of Thomas Radecki, the name was familiar, but I couldn't place it. The name itself did little but show me he still is all too active in the psychological community. Adding "shamed" to it got me a hit about 3/4 of the way down. The "D&D hall of shame". Seems this Douche named Bill Schenoebelen decided that he would chime in and attempt to sell some more gospel pamphlets, by telling the world how evil and misguided RPG gamers are. - This is the original article written back in the Pat Pulling days. It obviously references 1st and 2nd edition D&D. I am too angry to properly articulate my feeling on the subject...Maybe later, but I do so hate getting blood and innards all over my guests. - This is his so called "update" that seems to be during the revised 2nd edition era. Hard to tell for sure. The stupidity continues. - Finally, he wraps up by telling Christians that if they play D&D, they aren't Christians.

I advise all of you to read these articles. Share them within the community, and ponder them. Somehow, this poor ignorant jackass (I used to be a high witch priest? whatever dude) has gotten his Jesus all mixed up in our business. People pay this man for an his christian wisdom, and get this biased drivel instead. Want to know why the stereotypes and stigmas still exist my friends? It is because of this man and his ilk.

I wish I was articulate enough to dismantle this person. The smugness and such just gall me to no end. I won't even get into his silly "facts" as any of you who read them will know them for the garbage they are.

What do you folks think?

Disclaimer: I am not anti Christian. They taste just like everyone else - chickenish.
Disclaimer II - I am certainly NOT a satanist, regardless of what some hack would have you think.

Aug 25, 2008

You have got to be kidding me...

4E killed gary gygax...That is simultaneously the most silly and ignorant thing I have heard so far this year. Hats off to whomever came up with the idea, and watch your back, based on the mileage so far, your bones may soon become a new set of dice!

Do 4E killed gary gyax...I dare you!

On the crunchier side, the first "playtest" for the AotLD adventure went well. The party, consisting of a married elven couple (rogue and favored soul), a halfling druid with 400 lb wolf, Elven ranger, and half-orc barbarian (female!).

So far, they managed to shortcut half of my first chapter, and ambushed a bandit camp - trouncing the outmatched bandits, and taking several prisoners. After cashing in, and making points with their guildmasters, they met with a local noble, and are planning their next step. A good time was had by all.

As to the compilation - I'm working on it! lol, this process so far has given me a lot more respect for the folks who do this for a living. There is a tremendous amount of work involved! IT comes along well, thanks to PC/NPC generators, and other cool online tools.

Game on!

Aug 22, 2008

Wizards didn't "kill" 3.5, it was assisted suicide.

So, the more and more I keep reading about 3.5's faults (perceived or not) the more I wonder how they (the problems) managed to hang on so long. One can't help but wonder if the Wizards playtesters ever played a high level game with non "single dip" multiclassing. The problems are painfully obvious

Thing is, multiclassing is fun. wicked fun just as it should be. I have always been a fan of quirky character builds. Need a Paladin/Sorcerer? How about a Ranger/Cleric? Fighter/Wizard? I choose these examples because they all have one thing in common...multiclass spellcasting. These builds have awesome role-playing potential, but in reality suffer from, "Piss poor fighter, crappy spellcaster" syndrome.

At 15th level, the average AC to hit is what? Close to 30? Riddle me this, what is the BAB of a Paladin8/Sorcerer7? 11. Add a decent set of buffs, gear, and STR make that an adjusted +18 to hit with your chosen pig sticker. That gives you a less than 50% chance to hit in melee. Lame huh? Add to that, most creature you will be fighting at this level also have DR AND SR. Caster level check...Aisle three...cancel that, YOU'RE DEAD!

This brings me to the supposed savior of the 3E neo-grognards...Pathfinder RPG. I have a lot of hope this product will make it all better, but I am not seeing it yet. Having reviewed the systems latest (and final) beta playtest, I can assure you that the same issue are still alive and well. The classes themselves have been re-tooled to smooth out power creep, but the multiclassing system is the same as it was. In fact, aside from hearing from the editors and designes how much high level play sucks, there has been VERY little improvement in any of the core issues that make playing anything but a single class core character impossible. This sucketh the mighty teat of lameness. I LOVE 3.5, but it has always been despite it's flaws.

I would opine that WotC knew this was a no-win scenario. The rules overhaul required to make the late game playable as the early game was simply not something they wanted to do. This was why they chose a completely different route for the new edition, abandoning the canon, and backwards compatibility. It is a bit daunting to know that they abandoned this ruleset instead of try and fix it, as I think a "fixed" 3.5 with skill challenges, condensed skills, and healing surges sounds like the game I would rather play.

The problems are intrinsic to the core mechanics, IMO, the single biggest problem? The way classes stack. A Fighter10/Wizard10 has a LOT of options. Especially if said player is smart enough to specialize in conjuration or abjuration. Against a CR20 (with party of course) encounter made up of tons of lower level (CR10-13) monsters, this build would shine like the sun! Against a solo CR18-20? Dogmeat. You're to hit is too low, and so is your effective caster level.

I could sugar coat it by saying that you could relegate yourself to support casting and aid another checks, but you know what? I came to this M*therF**king dragon's lair to kill a dragon, not be a cheerleader. If I wanted to cheer, I'd have made a bard! Besides, this particular problem is only a problem if you are a multiclass spellcaster. A Barbarian/Ranger or Fighter/Rogue doesn't have these issues (to that extreme anyway).

So where exactly is the problem? Is it class design? Monster design? Encounter design? What? Is there a unified mechanic that can simply and effectively allow multiclassing for more than 2 levels? Some PrC's help a bit with this, but this shouldn't be an issue in a core game...and thoughts, ideas? suggestions? Houserules even?

Aug 21, 2008

So you just got you're first set of RPG books...what now?

So you are a newbie. You have just received a brand new core rulebook set for your birthday, and you want to play. Grats! and welcome to the single most enriching experience of your life! As a 16 year veteran of the RPG world, I feel it is my duty, no, my privilege to share a few tips with you as to how to get started.

By this point, you have probably heard all the stereotypes and even found an online horror story or two. The myth of the introverted, smelly weirdo living in the basement is just that, a myth. I have gamed with nearly 100 unique individuals in my lifetime (not counting LARP or Convention play) and I can say with certainty that I have met VERY few peeps that even come close to this particular creature.

That said, there are some folks out there that just will not mesh with you and your playing style. Lets start with a list:
  1. Start with your friends - YES! Start with your circle of friends. You would be astounded at the number of people out there that have "always wanted" to play. All they usually need, is someone "cool" to hold their hand and show them the way.
  2. Yes, that means chicks too - This hobby has "no chicks allowed" written in exact;y one place; NOWHERE. Yet another stereotype that has made being a gamer difficult over the years. A female perspective is quite useful at the gaming table.
  3. Family counts too - Little brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, even your parents! Yes, your parents. In this day and age, a lot of parents are frustrated by their inability to connect with their kids. It is always worth some consideration.

So we have a few basics on how to assemble a group. Still short? None of these apply? Here's my tried and true:

  1. Go online - There are MANY places across the web where you can anonymously post a "gamers wanted" ad and recruit veteran or newbie players alike. Being at work, I am finding it difficult to access most of them from work :-( However,'s message boards, as well as are good places to start.
  2. Go to your FLGS - That's Friendly Local Gaming Store, or whatever passes for one in your area. This can easily be expanded to cover your college bulletin board. Talk to the owner. Talk to the customers. This (IMO) is usually the best option.
  3. Be picky - When you contact newly recruited players, it is wise to try and get to know them before giving a thumbs up. The last three times I have recruited a group, I have held interviews at Denny's. Yes, Denny's. The food is inexpensive, the joint is 24 hours, and it is as laid back as you can get. I have found that speaking to the manager is a good idea, as "loitering" there can be problematic. In my experience, as long as you order "something" every couple of hours, they will even let you play there!
  4. You aren't god - Your group has the final say. While you, as DM have veto power, use it at your own risk. If someone in the group has a problem, it is a big deal.

Remember: These people are going to be defaulting into your circle of friends. With some campaigns going on for several years, it is a good idea to have a good solid group of players.

There is loads more, but these simple steps can keep you from the uncomfortable position of having a smelly socially dysfunctional jackass killing your game. They are rare, but they DO exist.

Anyone else have some similar advice for newbies? Speak up, and be heard.

Aug 18, 2008

A dark covenant...founded in earnest. It's only goal: To roll the dice!

Heya everybody! I had a fascinating conversation this weekend. It was with someone that just didn't "get" gaming. It wasn't one of those ignorant "D&D is either devil worship or cosplay nutjob types. It was just a normal person, who couldn't understand what it was all about.

"You mean you just sit around for hours and tell a story...that sounds pretty gay"

A gen Y quotable if there ever was one eh? I straightened them out in short order. You see, even though this person had no idea at the time, we DID have a common frame of reference...World of Warcraft.

Oh noes! He's gonna do the D&D = Video crack thing! Run away!!! Still there? Good.
As I was saying, This person plays WoW for about 2-4 hours a day, 3-5 days a week. I'll see your sitting around for hours, and I'll raise you ten!

"But I don't try and make up some lame story the whole time, I'm, PLAYING a game."

Forest for the trees anyone? When I asked this person who prince Arthas was, the resulting 30 minutes of excited monologue recounting the entire fall from grace effectively meets their "Lame story" and calls. The oddest part was that this person (a pretty intelligent type I might add) hadn't "ever looked at it like that" before. They were content to graze someone else pasture, and stick with the storyline, no thought to what would happen if they could make it up or change it as they went along fetching A and carrying it to B.

Maybe we're onto something in this. Is this how to get people to try D&D? "It's like WoW, only non-linear, and more random!"

So now we have a "person" now convinced that MAYBE this D&D thing isn't so bad. Then comes pitch number three,

"I don't really like the thought of being trapped in a sweaty, nerdy, sausage-fest..."

Ouch! This one could be a problem. Luckily, my current group proudly bucks the trend with not one, but FOUR females! The poor guys are actually a minority. I would also like to add that while nerdy (whatever THAT means anymore), we have no hygiene issues at all. Though I must say, in the interest of full disclosure, I have had unwashed nerds in my groups before. Those types are politely warned (in private) then ejected if they cannot conform to the hygiene standards of the group. So I was able to defuse yet another crazy stereotype.

Don't laugh people, this is really how the uninitiated sees us. A bunch of acne covered, MALE, borderline antisocial math geeks, that smell awful and would rather roll dice than date...I'd say TSR blew their marketing, as these stereotypes have been around since even my early days.

The reality (for me) has been quite the opposite. I have played with some pretty diverse groups. I have transitioned form always being the youngest, to usually being the oldest. I have played and DMed. I have been stuck with a 7 man all male group, and the (even worse) 7 female group. The more I game, the more it looks to me like the stereotypes need to evolve to match the times. Better yet, lets buck the trend and make them positives!

  • A whole lot of you gamers out there seem to be in the Engineering/Technical fields.
  • I see a lot of crazy mathematical based discussions regarding rules and their mechanical interactions within a many other hobbies can boast that?
  • I see a lot of Passionate folks in my hobby.
  • I see a lot of Artistic types as well - Across ALL mediums.

Most of all though, I see a lot of imagination. The good, silly kind. Like when someone asks what's so funny (you're smiling), and you think to yourself that your last character (a half-elf ranger/rogue) looked kind of like them - but was eaten by a dragon, silly. Of course you will probably just say "nuthin" or something, but then again...she probably just wouldn't get it anyway right?

Wanna share your best/worst player or stereotype? Ever met a card carrying B.A.D.D. member (for the grognards). Every tried to recruit a player that thought the whole thing "just wasn't right?" Tell me!

NOTE: To my Assault on the Lightless Depths fans, I am discovering why "everyone" doesn't do's tough! And worster - time consuming! Will post an update in the near future.

Aug 15, 2008

Upcoming review: H2 - Thunderspire Labyrinth

This weekend I will be running a party through the Thunderspire Labyrinth. A review of sorts will follow at the beginning of next week. Have a great weekend all!

Aug 14, 2008

A must have guide for new 4e players.

While he makes no attempt to cover up his dislike of the system, Ser Alexander offers a VERY deep insight and analysis of the essential core 4E mechanic. His review includes a walk through of the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure, and "fixes" for several areas that have proven problematic.

He has kindly compiled his series of articles in one place. Both haters and lovers willl find something useful here, so go to it!

Something completely random...yet strangely interesting.

I found this website completely by accident. Thank you, lucky google. Does anybody have the slightest clue as to what in the hell these people are talking about? I think it is a pub crawl...but then again...

RPG Carnival - Sometimes they come back...

Hopefully not out of line, here is my contribution to the Carnival.

Some time ago, I read an excellent Dragon magazine article about how to make raise dead and resurrection spells unique.

The article went beyond the actual event, and spoke heavily of the repercussions. This really got me thinking. Even in this day and age, there are many places in the world that still believe strongly in witchcraft, spirits, demons, and other woo-woo nonsense. They still burn witches in Africa (using old tires to do so) whenever a person or cow is struck by lightning ( a somewhat common occurrence evidently) or some other unexplainable event occurs.

Scary stuff to us civilized folks! Now add another piece to the pie. Said villagers, who could be any stereotypical village full of ignorant bumpkins, see one of the party members crudely vivisected by some kind of monster. Hours later, that "dead" man is fully healed and walking around...Talk about a perfect role-playing situation!
  • What if the village decides to "return" the hero back to his god's embrace?
  • What if they have a silly prophecy or legend about a hero that "comes back".
  • What if they had been victimized a generation or two ago by an undead creature?

Obviously, being simple and superstitious could cause some problems, but what if they are more...thematic? What about the local priest of a death deity like Wee-Jas or the like? Would they take issue with the party spurning their master's touch?

On another note, there was also an interesting sidebar relating to side effects of being raised. With a small bit of flair, the "daily resurrections" silliness becomes a bit more (dare I say it) realistic.

My favorite bit of fluff was that the spirit was once again bound to the body, but it took a couple of days for it to fully re-integrate with the body. As such, the PC had a ghostlike "shadow" of himself hovering just behind his body, mimicking the bodies actions. No in game mechanical effect - only a roleplaying effect.

One of the most difficult parts of immersion at high levels is the resurrection mill game. Where EVERY fight ends with someone needing to be raised. Hopefully these ideas will help you to introduce a few thematic elements to your game to stave off the same old boring crap.

What about you? DO anything different from the RAW for Raise and Resurrect?

EDIT: It was Dragon issue #342 - "Raising the Dead", by Rodney Thompson

Aug 13, 2008

The Polls have closed!

Thank you all for voting! I will be digesting the relevant data for future posting purposes. As such, we'll take a short break from future polling.

In early analysis, you all are averages out as:

  • Control freaks who love fantasy, and spend too much money on gaming supplements. Though it seems the couch industry loves you dearly.

Interesting stuff.

Aug 12, 2008

A depraved story: Funniest gaming moment...

...There was an adventuring group. Led by a brave Warmage named Laddy. This group, containing a dwarven warrior, A gnomish warrior, a scruffy human druid, a psychotic barbarian exiled from his own depraved tribe, and a priest of Ra, the sun god.

Together, this motley crew of adventurers defied death time and time again. Battling through the forests Caledonia, and their resident hordes of dark elves. Triumphing over the beserkers laying siege to Novgorod. Freeing Baghdad from the clutches of an evil sorceror and his Efreet minion. Always forward they went, battling evil in it's many forms...until they tried out Greek mythology.

A little background: Those Greeks were some twisted folks. You see, Long ago, on a small island called Crete, there reigned a king - Minos. He was a decent sort of fella. He had a small, but powerful kingdom, a beautiful wife, and the largest and most prized white bull in all the Aegean sea. Life was good. Then Fate came a knocking.

You see, Poseidon - lord of the seas, had grown weary of never getting his due for "protecting" the small island. When he saw that his likeness had been replaced as an idol of worship BY A BULL! He was understandably miffed. He appeared to Minos as a colossal column of water - shaped as a man. He demanded sacrifice. King Minos agreed to give him whatever he wanted. It was then agreed that the white bull in the king's lands would be offered as sacrifice. Now Minos was a shrewd guy, and really wanted to keep his bull, so he decided to trick Poseidon.

As such, when Poseidon returned, he snatched up his neatly slaughtered and packaged beef snack, and departed...happy. Little did he know that Minos had simply bleached the hides of three normal bulls, and stuffed them with nothing but Bones and fat besides!

His comeuppance came later, when he threw a grand feast. The huge white bull was a fixture within the throne room. Imagine the scene when Poseidon comes by to present a gift to the king - and discovers he's been had!

One thing the Greek gods did well was lay down inventive curses. Poseidon offered a choice, give me either your wife or the bull. Minos was torn (WTF!?) eventually deciding to give the angry god his wife. Poseidon laughed. He didn't need a mortal woman, it was simply a way of finding out what he truly cared about. The curse was then bestowed, and the god left.

Minos was beside himself. He had angered his god AND his wife. Curse? What curse? it was probably a trick anyway. As time went by, he was delighted to find that his wife was taking an interest in his prized bull. She would visit it, and talk to it, an even groom it for him. When the first minotaur was born, methinks he was a bit upset.

Unable to give up the bull or wife, he summoned the great thinker and inventor Daedalus. Once he arrived, Daedalus and his son Icarus were ordered imprisoned in his highest tower until they could solve his problem. The result:
  • A masterful labyrinth, to keep the ravenous minotaurs contained.

  • A mechanical cow that her highness could use to more safely conduct her trysts with said bull.

  • Later, a set of wings made of feathers and wax (we all know THAT one too)
I told you the Greeks were an odd bunch! So The wife is getting busy with a white bull the size of a buick, his patron deity is laughing at him, and his new labyrinth is filling up with baby bull-people at an alarming rate...what does a king in this position do? He kills himself.

History is unclear as to what happened then...That required a DM with a BA in Sadistic Dickery. The queen died of old age or something - not important. The bull however, was a gods-touched creature. Being intended for a nefarious purpose, it became 1/2 fiendish, and has lived on the island for generations when our heroes have the rotten luck to have their boat torched near the straights of Gibraltar.

Long story short - They figure out what's going on. This is where the metagaming bit them in the ass. You see, very few people have actually read the whole story. They really have no idea how depraved the whole situation was. Using this as a sharp instrument, I went to work.

Discovering they were on a deserted island covered with ruins and carnivorous minotaurs, the party soon figures out that they cannot leave until the bull has been slain, and the curse lifted. The bull however, is slumbering, and they cannot find it. Further exploration of the castle throne room leads to the discovery or an Apparatus of Kwalish shaped like a...cow. Climbing inside, the druid and barbarian discover it is full of levers, including several that cause the beast to read and attack! The odd "rear porthole" raises no immediate concerns...They want off the island!

Ponderously making their way outside, they use another lever to cause the "cow" to begin bellowing. Now, the bull hasn't heard his love call for him in decades. He immediately rises, and comes to investigate. The party, lying in ambush, watches as the great beast (Now Red, scaled, and leaving burning hoof prints) circle the construct, lowing gently.

The "tankers" are waiting for one more pass by before springing their trap and attacking the bull with their ride. Imagine the scene when a long, foul looking, and fanged "snakelike" creature enters through the "rear porthole" and begins snapping at their faces! Meanwhile the rest of the party fail their mental scarring saves and are confused for one round : )

The barbarian, never one to back down from a fight, whips out his trust dagger, and begins stabbing the foul beast. Unable to penetrate the creatures damage reduction, all he succeeds in doing, is making it grow larger, and attack faster! Finally, unable to withstand the "assault" any longer, the beast releases a "breath weapon" of acid into the cramped confines of the construct.

The rest of the party assaulted and slew the bull shortly afterwards. Upon opening the hatch to the construct, all that remained of their friends was a couple of skeletons - bubbling away in the acidic goo that coated every inch of the "tanks" insides.

That finished...I could finally laugh. I mean fall out of my chair and rolling on the floor laugh! They were so shell shocked! LOL! Makes me giggle an evil little giggle thinking about it 7 years later. THESE moments make DMing a way of life!

Best part? Now that you've read this actually true gaming story, you will be cursed to forever share it with anyone who thinks they have a funny gaming story. As such, Poseidon's curse still lives today!

Wanna share your funniest moment? Would love to hear them!

Aug 11, 2008

Compiling...Press esc. to exit.


My "little" project has taken on a life of it's own! Unfortunately, it is of the irradiated Kaiju variety. As such, my posting may slow down a bit as I compile and rebuild the massive wall of text into a friendlier, kinder, and most importantly SMALLER wall of text - with more fonts and headers : )

I am still taking ideas and suggestions, for those who are inclined. I will say, however, I haven't had this much fun geeking out for quite some time! Until such a time as I can get you great folks some good crunchy stuff...enjoy some fluffy filler instead!

Aug 9, 2008

Notes to self...

  • Log out and look at posts sometime...Holy Wall of Text!!
  • Stop blogging and get back to work.
  • Go to home depot
  • Feed kids
  • I mean WOW! Holy Wall of Crapton Text!

Back to work, after scaling this wall, I'll flesh it out piece by piece. Stay tuned, and shoot your thoughts or opinions in whenever you feel the urge.

Aug 8, 2008

Assault on the Lightless depths: Part 1C - Redstone, the Dales, and Blackstone Keep

Random cool image from hard drive. Credit happily given...If I can figure out where I got it.

Greetings, and welcome to the final installment of "Can he do it?" Today we are going to finish assembling the skeleton we started on monday. As such, it will be ready for meat very soon.

Chapter VI - I got a bad feeling about this - Ahhh, the city of Redstone. Nearly 4000 souls call this rough and tumble frontier burg home. From it's outer wall (Red iron leeching stone) to it's white marble "civic center", a picture of small town life.

Unfortunately, there are several events ongoing that are killing this small town idyllic. We'll address some of these below. First, we need to come to common agreement as to what the party needs to know by this point.

At this point the party should know:

  1. There is something funny going on here.

  2. The kidnappings are likely all connected.

  3. The keep is the likely location for the bad guys.

  4. This town has issues.

As such, we need to keep the party focused on the prize. For this; we have the last running tavern (no money = one last drinking establishment). After the ambush the party just survived, they have a note from a mysterious character named "Drogan Bitterbrew". (Handout will be part of final project.) Drogan is a dwarven brewer (LE Exp2) who runs "The Bitter Harvest", a drinkery specializing in a pair of ciders - pear and apple - that are local favorites. What the locals DON'T know, is that he is also a spy/fixer for the bandits in the old keep.

He passes messages, keeps a lookout, and occasionally handles "odd jobs" for a fair pile of coin. His goal is to make enough money to leave this backwater hell, and open a REAL brewery in a proper city. He is gruff, rude, greedy, and prone to childish behavior. Half of the town has been thrown out at least once. He also despises adventurers, he is, quite simply, jealous as hell of them.

In short, the note will indicate that "the pigboy" has alerted the "eyes and ears" to some "trouble" headed up the valley to Redstone. "The boss" would appreciate it if things can be "handled" before they get out of hand. Payment for "fixing" things will be handled by "The bitter man" in Redstone.

DM NOTE: While clever code or whatever makes the players feel good (when they figure it out) sometimes they simply cannot put it together. Need to work on massaging the clues a bit.

In any event, the as yet uncrafted letter will point in the direction of the bitter harvest, and give clues as to who the contact is. If role-played well, Drogan will break down pretty easily. He is a coward at heart, and if cornered will break down and spill all of his secrets if promised a day's head start out of the valley.

What Drogan knows:

  1. The bandit leader, has shocking red hair - named Camrian.

  2. There's LOTS of bandits in the keep. Scores of them!

  3. They been fixin the place up, looking to stay awhile.

  4. Always knows "his" boys - they stink like fish.

  5. Kidnapped folks get stashed in the cellar, and carted out under darkness, in kegs.

  6. He smelled orcs last time he was up there.

He doesn't know what they do with the folks he helps them "move", nor does he care. He only cares about his cut - 10 silver a head. A search of his room will turn up a sack of unminted silver coin blanks, about 300 of them. These coins (for a fee) can be minted into any kingdoms native currency, or exchanged for 80% of their value at a moneychanger.

Other locations of note:

  • The redstone mines - Currently closed. At this point, the lord of chain has sealed the mines until further notice. The last group of guardsman sent in to investigate the "poisoning" of the mine, came back in their underwear, screaming about monsters in the dark. In reality, the mine is infested by Pseudonatural templated Rust monsters. These mutants are able to eat both gold and iron. This encounter is a result of the fell energies from down below finally affecting the "lower" life forms in the area. It will only get worse.

  • The Baronial seat - The local seat of government. This "council" is made up of the lords of Coin, Wheel, and Chain. They do a reasonable job, so Ser Davros is content to act in an "Official Advisory" capacity during his monthly trips into town. These men are the elder scions of the three families that founded the banking, teamstering, and mining operations respectively. The serve as defacto guild leaders, and for the last 200 years, things have gone well. Unfortunately, with the disappearing wagons, and the poisoned mine, the whole local economy is about to collapse.

Currently, there are almost 800 unemplyed miners and teamsters. There are nearly daily mob brawls, and anarchy is dangerously close. These three old men are frightened. They are smart enough to know that there is something else going on here, but are powerless to do anything about it. The party are the first "heroes" to enter the town in decades. As such, they will be seen (to some) as a gods sent deliverance. Attending a council meeting would be a very wise move to attain employment while in this area.

DM NOTE: Redstone is a rough and tumble boom town. Think wild west with swords and crossbows instead of guns. The sheriff is an uncaring political appointee (Human War2) who is responsible (through incompetence) for some of the worst fighting and violence so far. I picture him as a "Boss Hog" type of character.

  • The merchant's row - This is an area where all the merchants share a common area. They are a tight knit group. Close proximity for generations has resulted in a group, so intermarried, that clear ownership of each is dubious at best. ("Don't see anything you like? Try my cousin next door - or my uncle on the corner.") The number of open businesses is a daily variable. Prices are marked down to fire sale levels (PHB prices, no modifiers) in order to try and get someone to buy something.

  • The church of St. Cuthbert - This is where the town sawbones lives. Lomes Redbeard (human Exp4) is the chirurgeon, and Abbot Stromond (human Cl5) is the churches local patriarch. Normally, 6 acolytes tend to the building, but currently there are only 2. Healing services are offered, for a donation. Potions are also available for "purchase".

  • The Olde Magick and Charms Shoppe - Tiesler's first apprentice, a shady fellow named Mort (N human Ro1/Ench3) makes his craft here. His shop has potions and scrolls for sale, as well as the occasional trinket. He is a bit of a grifter, and Tiesler absolutely despises him. The feeling is mutual (something about a stolen old spellbook). They refuse to even use each other's names.

  • The Shoe and Stave - The local smith/Farrier co-op. Rand (human fi1/exp2) and his sons Freck and Dran (Human exp1) are smiths, sharing space with the towns Wagonner and farrier Bertold (Half-elf exp3). Together they have a fairly lucrative business building and repairing mining gear, as well as the wagons used by the local teamsters. Rand, as a militia member, is capable of crafting arms and armor. (PHB base price + 75% due to iron shortage).

  • The docks - The seedy part of town, built up along the river. The barges travelling up and down the river have been steadily increasing, hurting the teamster's livelihood. As such, the "river folk" and the "horse pushers" are constantly at odds.

There may very well be more locations of note here, but for now, we have a skeleton. Next, we leave the walls of Redstone, and move on to the Dales - leading up to Blackstone keep.

Chapter VII - Home on the range -The Dales have long been a no man's land of small, interconnected washes and gullys. The bandits have memorized a short route through them to make travel to and from the keep feasible. These arroyos have been caused by the occasional monsoonal rains that come every 10 years or so. The average gully is sharply V-shaped, averaging 50 feet wide at the top, to 10 feet wide at it's bottom, to a average depth of 30 feet. There are often rock falls partially blocking several points along the way. Loud noises or explosions have a noncumulative 15% chance of starting a small rockslide. These rockslides require a DC: 14 Reflex save to avoid, failure leads to 2D6 bludgeoning damage.

Occasionally, these mazelike gullys open up into larger area where the walls between 2 or more have collapsed. These "valleys" are often home to the monsters that occasionally terrorize the goodfolk of the barony.

Possible encounter include:

  • Orc patrol from the Eyegouger/Bloody hand/Skullcrusher tribe. "just havin a look around" as it were.

  • Gnolls, new to the area, a small clan of gnolls have begun searching for a cave or gully to call home. They are likely to flee when first encountered.

  • Trolls. There are occasional sightings of mountain trolls (like MM, except tan not green).

  • Ogres. Also sighted on occasion.

  • Bandit patrol. If encountered, will try to send a runner back to the keep.

  • Dire wolves, weasels, wolverines.

Other encounters still bouncing around in my head:

  • Like shiraz the swanmay

  • The Eelhold & it's water elemental guardian.

  • The rosestone & it's "worshippers" a clan of hideously mutated somethings.

  • The Guardians of the dale (Ranger Cuiper, Druid Ophelia)

  • The Tar pits

All said, while the party is free to scout out the keep earlier, they would be foolish to try and storm it before reaching 5-6th level. A head on assault of the keep would be around a CR:10 encounter. It is possible with great tactics and preparation, but one single slip could spell doom. That said, Lets talk a bit more about the Keep.

Chapter VIII - That's no ruin, it's a barbican - Blackstone Keep, as long as there have been humans living in the Valley, so has their silent guardian watched over them. Built 300 years ago by The Lord Baron, Davram, it saw his children grow up, and also saw them all killed. Be that as it may, the keep has definitely seen better days.

Sitting nearly 400 feet above the low valley, the keep can be seen from any point, Haranshire and beyond. It's Black granite walls rise an impressive 50 feet above the surface of the stagnant moat. (possible merrow/Scrag?)The stone wall is nearly 4 feet thick at it's strongest points. Due to lack of regular repairs to the mortaring, there are bare timbers poking through here and there.

The Drawbridge is still intact, and appears to be boarded shut. A DC 12 spot check will confirm that it is a fairly simple ruse. The is in excellent repair, standing out against the moss and lichen covered walls. Manning the towers at all times are two sentries (Human Ro2) that watch for trouble. Any disturbance is immediately checked on by the Day/Night watch. a mixed group (6-10) of either human thugs and warriors (day) or Orcish Barbs/fighters (night).

Inside the courtyard, most of the doors have been replaced. The outbuildings have been rebuilt as well. Currently there are 150 total bandits here. At any given time, 50 of them are out on errands/raids and are not in residence. Typical bandit is either a fighter1 or Rogue1. Riding herd on these cutthroats, are four Lieutenants. These are Fi3 or Ro3, and are a bit more dangerous. The leader Camrian, is a Cl7 of Erythnul. With very few exceptions, 99% of the current population here are on the ground level. Camrian himself only comes up from the dungeons if a "scuffle" goes of for longer than 10 rounds.

The Orcs (15) are nesting in the old stables. They are generally Fi1 or Barb1, led by a skulltaker (Bar3). They wait until the party has been "softened up" a bit before attacking. Their leader, Gruumlash (Orc Bar3/Fi1) is currently in the dungeons.

The keep will have a few baubles spread around as pay for the men. The real payoff is in Camrian's quarters, down on level 2. Make sure to factor in elevation, as a number of bad guys will opt to snipe from the battlements (+1 to hit for elevation). Otherwise, a resourceful party will have little trouble smashing through the keeps outer defenses.

The lower levels of the keep consist of the larder, Root cellar, dungeon, and granary. The granary area is where Camrian is currently living. It is an opulent den lit by candles, an smelling of exotic incense. If on alert, he will be here, dressed out in his full kit (Banded mail +1, Heavy Flail +1, buff spells up) otherwise, a stealthy party could conceivably catch him "enjoying" one of the recent prisoners. He tends to keep a "plaything" shackled to his bed, unless he has "broken" another one, in which the shackles are open and waiting for their next guest. The adjoining room (with barred door) is where his broken toys go. There are 4-10 enhanced zombies here under his control. If cornered, he offers to "free the prisoners" locked in the other room. Once the naive party member opens the door, Round 2! Fight! Could be a small pack of ghouls too, if the party is having TOO easy a time.

On the floor, in the zombie chamber, is a large wooden trapdoor leading down into darkness. THIS is where the adventure really begins. Until then, Why would they go down there? Easy, because the clues tell them to.

The other adjoining room to Camrians quarters is a guest room containing the chief of the (whatever we pick) Orc tribe. He will join in any battle he hears next door,and follows direct orders from camrian to the letter (and death). If defeated, the party will notice the smell of fish on him too. Next to his pallet, are several empty flasks, each smelling of wine, and fish. Camrian's footlocker (under the bed) also contains no less than 12 sealed flasks containing a cloudy fishy smelling substance. These contain distilled aboleth slime. Imbibing this sludge forces the imbiber to make a DC 15 will save, or become susceptible to outside influence. In practice, all orders or commands are treated as suggestion spells (automatic fail on save). The effect lasts 24 hours, though repeated doses wear down a victims resistance. Long term (30 day or more) make the effects semi-permanent.

In addition to the flasks, there will also be a diary detailing his pact with "the old ones, down below." It is difficult reading, filled with sadistic reminiscing about his "playthings" as well as notes about his undead experiments. There are also a few handouts to come from this, including several strange glyph drawings, and partial maps. (included in final project.) He delights in thinking he knows more about his master's plan than they do, and fully expects to be a key player in "the new world to come".

  • If questioned, Camrian is a frothing madman. He giggles and capers, mocking his interrogators relentlessly. He could possibly drop any number of clues as to the next stage of the adventure, but has never been beyond the Trogolodyte caverns.

  • If questioned specifically about Julianna or the acolytes, he recalls them. The acolytes "went down" a week ago. Julianna...brings a sick leer. If pressed, he admits she kicked him in the codpiece, so he decided to "draft" a more meek female - sending Julianna below a tenday ago.

  • The orcs are a new addition to the forces being assembled. "there will be more" he warns. "There are dozens like me" he says over and over. He won't elaborate any further.

Torture or the like will inflict a catatonia on him. If left alive (turned in to authorities) he swallows his own tongue a few days later.

There you have it. The wobbly and obedient skeleton of Book one: The evils of Haranshire. I am going to be doing some homework, and playtesting these encounters with my group over the next few weeks. I plan to make regular progress reports, and report any stumpers that come up. In the meantime, and advice or assistance would be much appreciated.

As to that, I have no intention of actually making any money on this project. At best I hope to break even on my printing expenses. As such, I will be happy to offer free hardcopies and/or printed credits to anyone interested in such things. If this interests you, drop me a line.

Aug 7, 2008

Assault on the Lightless depths: Part 1B - The beginning of the end.

Credit: Dark horse comics 2008, Age of Conan

"Excuse me sir, could you help right my Wag-ECH!"
"He looked suspicious."

Continuing on, we are reaching the next to last "rough" phase of design. This whole process is about getting a feel for how we "want" things to go. I will be crunching numbers and statting out encounters over the weekend, and attempting to put them all into a reasonable format.

Any suggestions as to the as-of-yet undetermined layout would be appreciated.

And away we go! Yesterday, we got a feel for some of the baseline events up through Haranshire. There are two additional areas we want to concentrate on. The Military fort at Davram's Crossing, and the New mire.

Chapter III - Look! A...swamp, yay. - Leaving the stench of Haranshire behind, the broken caravan continues down the Baron's road. Less than a mile from the edge of town, a moderately overgrown path leads sharply off to the right, smack dab into the heart of the new mire. By now the party has probably determined that there is something living there that may also be the cause of the swamp forming in the first place. If they choose to skip this step, or come back later - it's OK! We will flesh out the area anyway. since we're here.

The New Mire:
  • Difficult terrain. Half movement as sucking mud is 4-12" deep all the time.
  • Stinks terribly. A lot of Piggery runoff has "fertilized" the waters here. Algae is bright green, and everywhere.
  • Knowledge: Geography/Nature - This area is a natural depression. Strangely, there should not be a spring here. Where is the water coming from?
  • In middle of swamp, is a tree covered knoll, there is a small amount of smoke steadily rising from it.
  • The Cow tether will be passed on the way in. Carved with graffiti (goblin curses)

My thought is to insert a single encounter highlighting why this unnatural swamp has got to go. A swamp based encounter with something nasty. Assassin vine perhaps? We'll come back to that. Eventually, the party will reach dry land in the middle of the swamp. The goblin tribe here has 4 goblins on sentry duty at any given time. If the party is spotted, they will have a tough time negotiating with intimidation.

At the top of the knoll, buried in the trees, is a small outcropping of rocks containing the entrance to a small cave complex. This is the home of the green foot goblins. They get the green feet from walking barefoot on the algae on a daily basis.

This tribe is relatively peaceful. Consider them CN or N when determining their reaction to the party. They are led by Grenk, a cunning old war chief in his late prime of life. (Goblin Fi4, MW Longsword, elite stats). He is upset that the "peace" has been broken by the invasion of their home. He is proud, but not dumb.

Any negotiation will also be overseen by the tribe shaman. Treek (Goblin cleric of maglubiyet 5, Chain shirt, Elite stats). The two have run the tribe for 11 years now. They escaped from enslavement to a pair of exiled drow by killing them both through subterfuge. Most of their equipment has been lost, save an ornate, golden stein. The stein is a decanter of endless water. It has been damaged from one too many drops from it's ceremonial perch. As such, it has opened a minute portal to the elemental plane of water. This "big hose left on" has been the force creating the new mire.

The shaman suspects this, but it is still a valued relic of their escape from slavery. As such, he'll only part with it for something REALLY good.

DM NOTE: Goblins have little appreciation for gold that cannot be spent, or stuff like that. They want something flashy or edible. A Wagon, full to the brim with cheese, wine, and cured pork totalling no less that 500 Gp will be necessary to appease them.

Should the party decide to slay them all, there are 80 goblins living here. 50 of these are female and child noncombatants. Of the remaining, only the chief, shaman, and 5 "hands" (Fi1) are any different than the MM entry. Most of the younger males started acting oddly before several were murdered. This behavior is unacceptable to the leaders. As such, the offenders, and their hangers on were exiled. They were encountered in chapter one.

A good deal of role-playing can be done here, the goblins don't want a fight, but will not be punked by a small group of pinkies. If the Decanter is recovered, the party should be awarded full value for defeating the entire tribe (a CR 6 encounter with traps and terrain) The party will also recieve an award from the mayor of Haranshire, as the mire will begin receding within a fortnight. As long as the party doesn't stop in one place for longer than a month, they will never encounter more than an out of place large puddle.

Chapter 4 - you ain't from around here are you? - Either after leaving the swamp for the first time, or passing the swamp to continue on to Davram's crossing, the party will meet some opposition. An ambush will be set up by the "bandits" in the keep. These should be nasty affairs. Assume the lookouts in Haranshire were able to give detailed descriptions of the players to their leaders. As such, we want to pull a decently tough CR 5-7 encounter. I am looking at using 4 Fi2 archers, and 4 Fi2 Brutes wilding saps and clubs. They will be led by a Ro3 named Orrek.

As the party passes around a gentle wooded curve, they see an upturned wagon on the side of the road. There is a figure laying on the ground near it, several arrows jutting out of his chest. Trying to right the wagon, are five men, farmers by the look. They are dressed in loose fitting homespun work clothes. Another wagon, with a single horse leading it, is resting just down the road.

As they approach, the men give a shout, and run back to the other wagon, arming themselves with pitchforks. Orrek, looking his best steps in front of the Party, and asks them for help. This scenario can go a hundred ways, so we'll keep it to basics. It has the potential to be a very tough fight, with caveats.

  • The archers stay hidden till ordered to fire.

  • The thugs all start melee with their saps. They are wearing leather under clothes.

  • Saps are boiled pigs ears filled with gravel.

  • use clubs and longknives (daggers) if sapping is not working.

To give the party a reason why they are being ambushed by farmers, Orrek will yell several times to capture them alive, and cursing any man who hits a spellcaster for lethal damage. He will concentrate exclusively on spellcasters the entire battle. The archers are armed with shortbows, and have 7 arrows each. If they run out, or are engaged in melee, they draw clubs and attack. Orrek will be carrying a plot hook encouraging the party to continue to Redstone, and track down agents there. Another curious clue: Orrek is clammy, ans smells strongly of fish. The rest of the bandits are out of work miners from Redstone.

Chapter V - "such joy ambition finds" (milton) - At last, Davram's crossing. Armed bastion of defense for this proud little frontier barony. The party, and/or the caravan will find a safe haven here. The fort is a style. The outer walls are wooden palisades 20' in height. The walls are banded trunk bundles overlapping with an average depth of 24". The keep itself is a highly functional block and mortar building with a noticeable list to the east. It is a very old structure dating back to the founding of the valley. As such, it was well built, and has been maintained for generations.

The keep is home to the Lord Marshall, Ser Jorrah Davros - Human Arist2/Fi2. After a plot was uncovered in his home country's court. Several low ranking nobles were executed for treason. Ser Davros's father was one of these. Fortunately for him, Ser Davros had several patrons with influence that allowed him to go from landless noble, to Landed noble in exile. It is understood, that as long as the king never sees or hears from him again, all is well.

As such, Ser Davros, has tried to make the best of it. At 35, he is one of the youngest of the keep's occupants. Since his arrival 5 years ago, the militia has gone from a gang of fat old men, to a larger gang of fat old disciplined men. During peaceful times, there is always a garrison of 30 men here. Most of them are veterans and retirees form the kingdom's army. Others are 5th sons and soft headed types that are no use on the farm. A breakdown would look something like this: 15 war1, 5Fi1, 5Fi2, 5Fi3, and the lord marshall. During times of war, the keep can theoretically hold 120 men.

Ser Davros, despite himself, likes it here. There's just enough action (they took out a troll last fall) to keep things lively, and yet nobody is actively seeking his head. He has a RICHLY appointed quarters on the keeps third floor, and being a handsome devil, never has a problem finding "company" in Redstone or Haranshire. Unfortunately, he senses his idyllic existence coming to an end. Pigeons from both Haranshire and Redstone are telling of a large number of troubles occuring at the same time...seldom coincidence.

Controlling the militia coffers, and his personal stash give shim access to 5,000 gp in bounty/reward money. He also has access to the keep armory (all basic gear from PHB, Weapons, armor, 20% chance there will be 1 MW item of any particular variety) and will compensate the party any way he can for their help. Currently, Father Brent of St. Cuthbert is in residence. He is checking on the status of the search for his acolytes, as well as tending to a guardsman wounded by a snakebite.

Possible encounters here: (100 gp per CR "point" is a fair reward or bounty)

  • Orc raiders from the keep
  • small group of bandits "escorting" a new captive (always a low level spellcaster).
  • Various woodland hazards (dire animals, occasional monster)

As for infromation, Ser Davros knows about the strike in Redstone, as well as the teamsters. He also knows there has been activity in and around the keep. His men have found orc and ogre spoor as well, but no actual creatures yet. He is a student of history (knowledge: Local history) and will happily entertain the party (female guests in particular) with stories of The founding of the valley.

DM NOTE: Good place to insert a historical side quest of the "And they never found the baron's flaming sword" variety. Must think on this, otherwise award CR4 experience to any party members who meaningfully interact/tease this story out of him.

Eventually the party/caravan will need to go. It is likely that an empty wagon or two may be sold here as well. The next chapter will be specific to Redstone. As the last chapter, it will also give me a pretty firm set of encounters to stat up, as well as a somewhat close chronology.

The opinions of my readers matter here. Please let me know if you see anything you would "do better". I am always open to advice. Thanks for voting on the polls, it will definitely guide my future posts.

Aug 6, 2008

Assault on the Lightless depths: Part 1A - Notes, & Form

(Aboleth glyphs, by Wayne England, WotC website.
From Lords of Madness - Credit: WotC Copyright 2008)
So yesterday we walked through some ideas, and started to clump these ideas together. Today we are going to refine those ideas a bit, then I will have to go and do some homework. To Start:

Area one : The Caravanserai

The Party will begin the adventure at level three. This will represent a combination of several factors. Mainly, it is to represent the seasoned/Highly trained nature of the PC's crafts. For any number of reasons, all of these adventurer types are going to be travelling with a large and well armed merchant caravan. It is Midsummer, and with the Barony's Mid season Harvest festival coming up, the merchants have timed their trip to coincide with the fattest purses of the year.

The caravan consists of no less than 14 wagons. 12 of them represent merchants of various types. Fabrics, Pots and pans, Exotic foodstuffs, Spices, all sundry items. The last two wagons are unwelcome tagalongs - Gypsies. While disliked and seen as thieves, they ask for nothing, and provide excellent and welcome entertainment during the nightly breaks. As such, they are tolerated, as long as they stay away from the other wagons.

  • Undecided, split party into front, middle, and vanguards? Will affect tactical aspect heavily.
  • Make "Mamma Scyllia" a low level adept. Fits fortune teller schtick if needed.
  • Adorable and persecuted ragamuffin children? or Thieving rats?
  • Total warm bodies in caravan: 50
  • All mid-sized wooden wagons pulled by oxen or draft horses.
  • Players may purchase any sundry item from PHB here for base cost.

The DM may allow a pre-game interlude to allow roleplaying at this point. The actual adventure begins in the next section.

Chapter I - A Quiet evening by the fire - The wagon train will reach the near dusk. Any players riding with the lead wagon, will overhear the boss and his lead talking about the road. They are rather spooked, as there should be traffic on the Baron's road this time of year. So far, there have been no other travellers in two days. This is a bad omen.

DM NOTE: Some fake spot/perception checks would liven up the atmosphere. Anyone who rolls a DC 15+ roll can make out the caravanserai off in the distance.

Once there, the wagons all begin breaking down. As Caravan guards, it is the PC's responsibility to assist with this. The animals must be brushed and fed, a fire started, water found. All in all, there is a lot of work to perform. Due to space, the gypsies will have to stay outside the walls, which they do without complaint.

DM NOTE: Players must assign watches. Roll a d2+1. The attack will happen on that watch (of the 4 possible 2 hour watches.

Unbenownst to the caravan, they have been stalked for the last whole day. A small group of goblins have been following them. A CR appropriate encounter here will depend on the number of players. A party of 4 3rd level players will rate a dozen for a fairly easy fight. My thoughts are two waves of 10.

These wretches are in pretty poor shape. They are All that is left of the group the green foot tribe expelled two weeks ago. Since that time, their numbers have steadily dwindled away.

  1. They have odd green stained feet
  2. They are emaciated
  3. Their gear sucks (even by goblin standards)
  4. Only one of note, their leader - A fi2 armed with a short sword, wearing hide armor.
The goblins will try and overwhelm the defenders in a mad rush. Observant party members will see that their primary weapons seem to be sharpened sticks (d6-1 min. 1). They are desperate, and will raid the wagons containing foodstuffs first. Anything without food in it will be torched (using brands from the bonfire).

DM NOTE: This battle meant to be chaotic. Starving, crazed goblins running everywhere - chasing wagoneers, harassing the settlers (women and children). In short - glorious chaos!

The goblins will attack from all sides in groups of 3. The gypsies will be targeted first, and may well be the only way the rest know they are under attack!

In the aftermath of the fight, the PC's may have a chance to earn some XP by assisting the wounded, or performing other alignment appropriate actions to help mitigate the disaster. In playtesting, I was always able to burn at least three wagons. With a fudge or two I could easily have gotten half of them. Ditto the drivers.

The next day finds the camp still in shambles. The casualties of the night are telling. As such, you are informed that the caravan will break up at Redstone - AKA the group is being given a layoff notice.

Chapter III - Ode to the Piggery - three hours later, the party will begin to smell the fine town of Haranshire. As the beautiful rolling hills of the valley floor gives way, the stench of smoke, Pig offal, and open tanning begins to assault the senses. Calling this town "rustic" would be am understatement. The Baron's road sinks into the muck several hundred feet from the edge of the town. The wagons soon find themselves struggling to make way through the deep, slop-filled ruts. The whole town of 400 souls consists of low, ramshackle thatched huts. The two exceptions are:
  • Tiesler's tower: Tiesler, a "hedge" wizard, resides in this unimpressive manse. It consists of a round, single tower that rises to a height of 40 feet. It is 30 feet across, and has only a single steel shod wooden door at the base.

  • The Greased Pig: The local watering hole. two story wooden building. Only 4 rooms. Run by "Piggy Jim" a half-orc veteran (Fi3), who also serves as a militia sergeant for Lord Davros.

Upon arrival, the surviving caravans will be mobbed by curious onlookers. They seem...anxious, and several will be noticeably (and vocally) relieved that the roads are still open. This turns quickly to dismay when signs or tales of the attack become known. Jonas Brown (human Exp2) is mayor here. He will be at the head of the "official" procession of landowners that will push it's way through the crowd to greet the boss.

In true traditional style, the wealthy (relatively) will then pick over the goods, and make the first purchases.

  • During this time, the mayor will learn of the attack in detail, and is visibly shaken. "Green feet you say? There's a few of them up 'round the new mire with green feet. Quiet lot though, we leave a cow or sheep out there every full moon, and they leave us alone...wish this ghastly swamp was as easy to placate." He will point to his slop covered boots. Further questioning will reveal that the swamp is a new occurrence. Two years ago, it sprang up out behind The Marberry farm. By the end of the season, it was a bog. The house sunk the following spring, and the whole family had to move to Redstone. He can promise a reward only if the problem is solved, as the town is in dire straights currently

  • Tiesler always has use of gophers to obtain his spell and research components. He can be used to steer the party to whatever encounter area the DM wishes. He is also the local "magic shop". He scribes scrolls, brews Potions, and CAN craft minor wondrous items. (5th level caster). He also can identify magical items - for a fee. He will always have several scrolls and potions, as well as a magical trinket or two on hand. ANYTHING else must be crafted for a 60% markup. When appropriate, he will offer another job; his apprentice - Julianna has gone missing. He is genuinely concerned as he is her godfather as well. He offers 100 gold pieces and a small collection of potions to the party if they can discern what has happened to her.

  • The tavern...oh the tavern. Here, the rumors of the current events have taken on a life of their own. The most prominent and disturbing however relate to the kidnappings as of late.

Seems the local church of St. Cuthbert sent it's acolytes (3) out to make their monthly rounds looking after the small folk, and vanished.

Tiesler's Apprentice disappeared last week - Julianna was well liked, and some suspect foul play. People are scared, and now travel in groups.

Several teamsters have gone missing wagons and all in the last couple of months.

The mine in Redstone has been closed, nobody knows why.

"Ain't seen a buck in weeks, much less a tom or sow". Laments a group of hunters.

  • The mayor will pay 1 gold piece to the player who will deliver a written message to the mayor of Redstone and the Lord Marshall at Davram's crossing.

  • SOMETHING has been hauling off Old man McGuiness's hogs at night. One a week now for the last three weeks. He's got "something you folk fancy" to offer in exchange for help (a +1 dagger?)
This should keep the group busy while the wagons are repaired, say 2-3 days. From there we go on to Davram's Crossing and meet the Lord Marshall himself - Ser Davros. Tune in tomorrow for Chapter 3. Until then, did I leave anything out? IS the suck sauce flowing too heavily? Let me know!

Aug 5, 2008

Assault on the Lightless depths: Part 1 - Notes

I have several projects that I have been working on for what seems like forever. It's time to dust them off and have another chug towards the finish line. To and , The initial cost of a appx. 200 book run is about 1400 dollars. There are a few variables, including color/B&W, which is a big deal, as well as length. So th recap; publishing your own "book" from final draft to 3 boxes just arrived this morning is about $1000. I don't know about you, but that is a damned reasonable price for a lifelong geekgasm, don't you think? I'm putting my money where my mouth is, and I'll make it a public project as well.

So now for the fun part. We need a product. I'll toss a poll out there, as this is a bit of a public project. I am leaning towards a campaign arc/adventure path.

Some notes:

  1. Buck tradition and start the story at 3rd level.
  2. All OGL/SRD compliant
  3. Oops...3rd or 4th edition!? Aargh!
  4. Wrap up at 15th level
  5. Non setting specific - remote, rural area.
  6. Use the "unbenownst to the defenders of the realms" trope.
  7. Few DMNPC's
  8. Fully statted encounters - no book referencing.

So we have a decent beginning. These are all decisions that have to be made. See any I've missed? Let me know. So we have a remote locale...epic storyline...sounds familiar...AH! Any of you familiar with this?It was one of my all time favorite campaigns, the first one I DMed actually. I've always had a soft spot for this adventure. So I'll use it as source material. I always thought that this adventure succeeded in spite of it's many flaws. As such, lets review the major plot points.

  1. 1st level adventurers come to a remote town, and are ambushed by bandits.
  2. Bandits drop clue that they are kidnapping spell casters for a hefty bounty.
  3. Reach large village (pop appx. 400) that is surrounded by plot hook zones.
  4. Main story arc picks up after X plot hooks are concluded
  5. Party raids old keep at end of valley (rumors of curse and haunting)
  6. Keep is bandit hideout/Orc nest that contains passage to upper underdark.

This is all Book one. The set has three parts. Lets concentrate on this part for now. Addressing the first concern on both lists, we'll start the party at third level. I do this to give the characters some options in terms of character selection, wonky lethality, and plain fun. Objections? Let me know.

So the party is "not from around here". The intention is to have them as members/guards for a seasonal caravan headed to Redstone and back. destroy the caravan = stranded adventurers. The WHERE part of the adventure, is the failed Barony of Kreya. The barony is a mid sized (4 mile wide at center, by 8 mile long spear point shaped valley. It is disgustingly fertile, the proof being the persistent settlements in a proven monster infested frontier. The valley will have these characteristics (for now, using generic 3.5 city stats);

  • Name: Barony of Kreya
  • Alignment: TN
  • Capitol: Redstone
  • Ruler: Lord Marshal Davros
  • Government: Benign Military Dictatorship
  • Population: 15,000 (38% Humans, 23% Other, 20%Demihuman, 10%Goblinoid, 9% Orc,)

Description: A often coined "the toe of the empire", the barony of Kreya the end of civilization. Nestled in a fertile mildly volcanic valley, this is the frontier. The Ironjaw mountains rise (avg.2000ft. -max.4000ft.) high above the lush temperate dale lands below. Center cut by the gentle meanderings of serpent creek. Near it's low banks reside hundreds of acres of farmland and plantations.

The primary exports of this region are it's wines, cheeses, and smoked pork. Other bumper crops typically include green apples, grapes, pears, and grains such as wheat and barley.

There are only three true settlements here.

  1. Haranshire - Pop 400 (1200 counting 1 mile radius). Home to piggeries, tanners, wainwrights, and the heart of the agricultural economy.
  2. Davram's Ford - Pop 125 (400 during training) Home to a keep and palisade wall. This is the sole reason for the continued survival of the citizens here. Here resides the Lord marshall, and his garrison of militia.
  3. Redstone - Pop 2000 (3000 counting 1 mile radius)The reason anyone wants to be here at all. The Ironjaw mountains got their name from the rich veins of Iron and gold running through them. This town is a "gold rush" boom town. The Iron mines keep the city alive, while the smaller gold operations bring in a constant stream of new blood. The breweries are also located here. Pollution is awful, due to mines, forges, tanneries, and piggeries all sharing space. Smells like feet wrapped with week old bacon.

Isolated, and protected by formidable natural barriers, this small valley has remained safe from the ravages of war for centuries. 3oo years ago, Gregor Kreya - a newly minted baron, rode out at the head of his van, and planted the seeds of the current settlements. He brought farmers, hunters, and soldiers to tame the land he had been given. He was succeessful, until one fateful night still talked about in church sermons.

A great battle, seen and heard throughout the valley, was fought through the entire of a midsummer night. The small folk, investigating the next day, found all dead. Every man woman and child in the keep had been slaughtered. The place was declared cursed, boarded up, and left to rot.

Currently, the tension in the valley is palpable. Due to the mysterious disappearances of late, the teamsters have organized, and are demanding better rates for hauling ore out of the valley. There have been...disappearances on the trade roads lately. To make matters worse, the ore coming out of the mines is rotten. It wont forge properly. With the miners blaming the teamsters for poisoning the mine, and the teamsters thinking the miners are playing dirty, things are rapidly deteriorating.

To add fuel to the fire, the Lords of Coin, Wheel, and Chain are bickering as well. Heads of the three founding families, each controlling the respective guilds; banking, wagoners, and mining. They have all been acting strangely as of late, but nobody knows enough to risk involving themselves in what could be a dangerous game.

DM Secrets - This valley is fertile in more ways than just the soil. There are many plots afoot. Some examples of what I am looking at doing with this:

  1. A colony of sickly, malformed rust monsters in the mine. Apply pseudonatural template for dangerously malformed theme. Partially consume iron & gold!
  2. The disappearances are due to a wandering monster (no ideas yet) that is a recent arrival to the valley.
  3. A tribe of orcs has surfaced in a cave system near the old keep. They are currently working with the "other" occupants of the keep.
  4. The "other occupants are a atypical band of brigands - more on that later.
  5. The lords are fighting because each blames the other for the current woes. Add cheating wife or Romeo and Juliet with kids if needed.
  6. The new mire...less than 2 years old, nobody goes there anymore - more on that later.
  7. 1-3 "not so random encounters" pre-statted encounters keyed to times/locations.
  8. 2-4 Set piece locations. Lean towards role-playing opportunities.

This list is by no means complete. This post, however is getting overlong. As you can see, this is going to be a lot of work. I will attempt to break this into chunks, and flesh it out as I go. My current goals are:

  1. Solicit feedback so I don't fall into too many ruts due to tunnel vision.
  2. Publish chunks of this article as they are completed as .PDF's
  3. Eventually consider compiling and selling a quality product at a minimal markup ; )

Would any of YOU pay for something like this? I'd appreciate some feedback, and YES "it sucks" is valid as long as there is a reason included. Until then, feel free to suggest or steal anything you want from this.

Aug 4, 2008

How many great ideas are out there...just sitting there, collecting dust?

A recent post over at got me thinking. How many incredible adventures are just sitting inside their respective organic neural computers, just waiting for a spark of motivation?

Hell, what about just mine!? If you folks reading are anything like me (and you most definitely are!) you could fill a library with our unpublished thought and dreams. Personally, I am mulling through:

-three epic fantasy campaigns - levels 1-30, the whole taco.
-two sci-fi campaigns, one hardcore, and another one shades of dragonstar. (R.I.P.)
-A NPC/BBEG supplement to help the beleaguered 3.5 crowd
-A book of 1001 level appropriate pre-rolled treasures.
-A compilation of thought and print about the far plane. (fantastic locations/expedition to?)
-A similar work encompassing the yugoloths. (fiendish Codex III?)

The list goes on. So what is stopping me? You'll all sympathize when I say it's...complicated. Right. Truth is, I'm lazy. I am satisfied (mostly) entertaining my small circle of friends and gamers. Though, truth be told, the itch has been maddening lately.

Of course isn't that what online communities are for? Chatty said something a month or three back that struck a chord in me. He said that (to paraphrase loosely) that due to the shrinking pool of talent, and the inherent difficulty of being credited in a niche like RPG gaming, tomorrow's game designers would probably be heavily recruited from the ranks of the RPG blogging community. I happen to agree with this, strongly. I have seen some incredible talent since I began following the blogs instead of the stagnating forums. THIS is where the Elite are flocking, no longer content to be a faceless voice among many. We have good, nay GREAT ideas, and we WILL BE HEARD! Send in the Sardrukar!

Problem is, I am more of a leader than a trench digger. Most would call it lazy, but I equivalate it to the shop teacher who can TELL you how it's done, but couldn't DO it if his life depended on it. Ironic isn't it? Colossal cosmic power...the kind that can create whole living, breathing worlds, hamstrung by lack of motivation - or small child induced sleep deprivation. So where does that leave us?

Simple, nowhere. Humbled by the first hurdle - motivation. Unfortunately, it doesn't get any easier after that. There's the same Demons that chatty spoke of the demons of doubt some time ago, the inner demons that affect all of us. YOU think motivation was hard? Wait till you meet your toughest critic - yourself! As you can see, we haven't even tried to find a publisher yet, and there is already enough adversity to make even ME a bit unsettled.

In the end, a community like is a remedy for this. A much needed remedy. Trask, the last Tyromancer has already helped with the last hurdle. Just head on over the A good starting point for trying to publish your dreams.

In the end though, the only person who can build your dreams is you. The greatest post of all can do little more than inspire YOU to do what you should already have been doing. Like my uncle always says, "If you didn't vote - you have NO right to complain."

I can only hope this inspires someone to do something great. In the meantime, I have some notebooks to go and dig out.
What say you? Anything you've been dreaming up? How far along are you? Tried and failed? I love to hear from anyone who's been down this road before.

A completely random epic hook...

Soulfire, the red ruin (Old Fiendish Red Dragon/Disciple of Ashardalon) has returned from his sojourn to the abyss. He seeks objects of power to fuel a ritual that he hopes will force the mighty Tiamat, queen of dragons, to recognize him as her chosen consort. If he succeeds, and Tiamat spawns here first progeny in millenia, the very heavens will be rocked to their core.

The 300 years he has been missing have caused the legends of his wrath and rage to fade into just that, legends. In this time, the kingdom has become a peaceful place. Farms and villages have sprung up a the very foot of the bleeding spire, once home to the "fiend who flies".

Soulfire now sits in his labyrinthine lair, scrying his old enemies, and gathering old allies. Even with power as great as his, he will need help to get the objects he so desperately needs.

A (theoretical list of epic objects) :

The heart of a planetar
The tears of a devil
A blade wielded in battle by a virgin queen
The soul of an innocent
A god's folly

Soulfire will have several agents assisting him with the collection, I propose one BBEG for each object. Examples:

An elder Salamander noble
An Efreet or Dao Lord
An azer or fire giant champion
A Demon or *gasp* obryth!

The party will encounter scouts and minions of these Lieutenants until they are appropriate level to tackle the bosses themselves. For proper scope, each of the objects should be located in a locale completely unique to each other, A floating castle, and angelic court, a sunken city, an abandoned mine/fortress, etc.

The rest is minor details, LOTS of random encounters appropriate to area, and improv! With the affairs of dragons involved, it will be an easy thing to involve the "good" dragons for a truly awe inspiring epic fantasy game.