April 30, 2012

Experience Changes

I run Dungeon Crawl Classics for Ig. It runs like D&D with some of the nastier bits of WFRP bolted on, and so is awesome. The full rules were released this month, and one particular change has just caught my eye.

The beta rules used pretty classic experience tables, each class leveling up at different levels. Elves with their built-in multiclassing required the highest totals to level up, while thieves needed the lowest. Monster stats included space for experience, but no values. I originally assumed this was copy-protection on Goodman Game's part, keeping the system from being feature complete. Or maybe some OGL nonsense, I know XP tables fall under its purview. In practice it didn't matter, I used Labyrinth Lord for XP values, since both systems use hit dice and are relatively interchangeable. Now that the commercial product is out there in the wild we have an answer. DCC uses a greatly simplified system for level advancement, in fact they get rid of individual experience points for monsters entirely!

They've replaced it with something with far less granularity, but I can't say I really mind. Gone are the quadruple (and higher!) digit experience requirements. No longer do the classes level up at different rates. The whole number system has been reduced by a factor of 10. Encounters provide XP in a range based on the difficulty of the fight, 0 thru 4 as written. PCs can also gain XP for spending gold in class-appropriate ways, such as cashing in on training, creating new spells, etc. I don't mind tossing out that bit of bookkeeping, if XP doesn't have any meaning outside of indicating when to level up I see no need to leave vast sums lying around on a character sheet.

It makes me curious in what state DCC was in when the beta rolled out. Was the experience system still in flux? There are sections of those rules that are not vestigial but outright nonexistent in the commercial version. I'm sure I'll find more interesting tidbits when my physical copy shows up.

April 25, 2012

The Monanstery of Red Cap

Last year I ran a short campaign using Gamma World 4E. It was a lot of fun, most of the players had never played a tabletop RPG before and I hadn't run anything in over a year so it was more or less a shake-down cruise for everyone. After running through the terrible railroad that comes in the original boxed set I started writing the next adventure. Taking place in a local blown-out office building taken over by diminutive techno-fetishists in red haberdashery, I never finished the bottom floors. There's a still a lot of content and a few neutral factions to give it a more living-dungeon feel. Not so useful to anyone not running something 4E, although anyone with enough old GW stuff could probably replace the monsters with ease.

Red Caps! A Gamma World Adventure

I'm afraid the whole thing petered out in the end, killed by a combination of mismatched schedules, summer travel, and malaise. It cemented in my mind the things I love least about 4E, the risk of option paralysis, no space for a character to hang out-of-combat utility, and samey nature of many of the powers. But never mind all that! It's a fun little system, it out-gonzos a lot of other games and makes for crunchy, tactically interesting combat.

April 24, 2012

Cut the Root

This week the group included Thogmash, Tim, and Arrowroot, and their henchmen Thena, Ool, and Dargar. Last week the group found itself captured by the Bogmaster, with Thogsmash cast in an enchanted sleep with the frond of a terrible plant monster attached to his face and the rest of the group trapped in the wizard's dungeons and threatened by his plant-controlled servants. It was hard fight won at great cost.

Even asleep Thogsmash could feel the frond covering his face reach into his thoughts. He shuddered at the touch of the alien mind, and with a woke from the enchanted sleep with a jerk. The Bogmaster was carrying him, but only lightly. Struggling away he drew steel and attacked his former master!

"What treachery is this?" the Bogmaster roared, his eyes alight with rage. "This is how you repay me? Thogsmash, today you die!" With a guttural shout a gout of flame poured from his mouth, blistering the younger wizard with hellish heat. Falling back in the face of the conflagration Thogsmash prepared his own spell. It would cost him dearly to cast it.  He notched his ears eleven times with his twisted claws, a sacrifice for power. He could not muster the elements like the master could, but he was wily. With a flourish he conjured ropes from thin air and bound the Bogmaster tightly like living snakes.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party struggled against the wizard's servants. Each slack-jawed man they cut down was replaced by another identical figure, head tightly wrapped by a leaf that burrowed into the flesh. They didn't even attempt to defend themselves, only grabbing the warriors and dragging them out to the monstrous plant in the center of the chamber. The foes piled up at their feet, but the numbers kept coming. Pushing through as best they could everyone tried to regroup with Thogsmash but it was like moving through tar.

The Bogmaster struggled with his bonds. Magic crackled around his body and the ropes stretched and warped around his form but he was unable to free himself. Roaring magical syllables, spectral light flared into coruscating sheets around him, causing the ropes to fray and explode. He spat a curse at Thogsmash, but the magical spell fizzled before it could fully shape, giving him another chance to attack with his blade. The wizard was bleeding where Thogsmash had struck true, but it had only enraged the mystic further.

"Blast and bite you!" The Bogmaster yelled, "You dogs don't deserve to serve me. Kill them all!" The distracting but ineffectual servants turned deadly, hands that had only grabbed and pressed  swung around and groped for eyes. Ool was killed outright, crushed and rendered by unfeeling hands. Tim was knocked unconscious when the blank-eyed figures torn his weapons from his grasp and a punch nearly dislocated his jaw. Arrowroot swung his halberd in a mighty arc, driving back his foes, and leapt toward the Bogmaster and Thogsmash, handaxe at the ready.

Suddenly the chamber echoed with a peal of thunder. Thogsmash watched in stunned horror as a lightning crackled from his old master's eyes, then clove a smoking arc into his body. Thogsmash was slain.

It was Arrowroot who struck the last blow before the wizard could prepare another spell, his axe clove the Bogmaster's head in twain! Sparks and light exploded from the wound as a keening whine filled the room. It seemed to come from both the wizard and the enormous plant, rising higher and higher to a painful pitch, then stopping just as suddenly as the Bogmaster's body collapsed into ash and slag. The servants froze, struck catatonic by the loss of their master. Tim freed them, tearing loose the mind-controlling parasitic plants that enslaved them. Many died from the shock of removal. He offered the survivors a choice, to return to their lives beyond the Orget Forest or to stay here at the tower and serve him as the new Bogmaster.

April 20, 2012


This post is really just a clearinghouse of ideas while I work on a big post about goblins. Getting it down will let me close all the tabs I had open. First, check this out:

This Easley-looking piece (by Pavel Riha) is a labyrinthodont, an extinct amphibian from the Land that Time Forgot. Something about the critter's hungry, beady little eyes lit up my brain. Maybe it's the ladykiller smile? I'm considering replacing all the crocodiles in my setting with these things, at least in And. As cool as these things are, it's the teeth that clinched me using them in some way.

This is a cross section of one of those pearly whites. That's where they get their name! Dead language lesson! Huzzah! This begs to be reworked and used as a dungeon. Very Planescape Caverns of Thought, Ilsensine the God-brain sitting there in the middle with his neuron bundles stretching out into the cosmos. It needs some simplifying to slow down the inevitable player revolt and DM stoning, but it's too cool not to use.

April 17, 2012

Machinations in the Mire

This week's session included Tim, the ever-present thief, Thogsmash, and Spud, wizards. Arrowroot's player was around for the first half of the evening, but had to go before much happened. Last week ended with the dispatching of a group of giant lizards who had attacked the caravan they were guarding. Hanzi, the caravan leader, called a halt after the lizards were dispatched, ending the day's journey on a dismal note. The weak light that filtered through the canopy quickly failed, leaving the group only the light of their campfires set high up on the swamp road away from damp. The forest was filled with sounds, strange howls and mysterious crashes in the darkness. The band clutched their cloaks tight against the fetid air, swords loose in scabbards. No one slept well that night, nor the next four nights.

On the fifth day in Orget forest a high misshapen tower loomed out of the mist, surrounded by a high wall of coiled vines thicker than a man's arm. Hanzi rode his horse up to the barrier and hailed whoever waited within. "Welcome to the tower of the Bogmaster!" he announced to the caravan. In a moment the vines gave a spasm like some great animal and twisted away from a point in the wall and exposing a wide gate. Beyond the gate waited hooded figures in deep green. They welcomed the caravan in silently. A large barn lay behind the tower. The Bogmaster's servants led the slave wagon was led within, along with the party and Hanzi.

The hooded servants led the slaves, still bound, out of the wagon and down into a stairwell in the floor of the barn. Behind them came Hanzi, Tim, Spud, and their men-at-arms. They were led to the main floor of the tower. The group was split, the slaves were led deeper into the tower while the others were ushered into the round banquet hall, including Thogsmash. It was set for a great feast! After everyone was seated the Bogmaster appeared. He was an elderly man with a ghastly green shade to his skin. He wore dark green robes of fine silk and a skull cap and a long beard long and gnarled almost like roots. He welcomed everyone, and with a gesture Thogsmash's bindings fell away. The party was confused, instead of the vengeance he was welcomed as a faithful servant. The Bogmaster made smalltalk as they ate, but no one had the nerve to question him closely. It was strongly suggested they spend the night, and not seeing an easy way to extricate their associate from Bogmaster's side they chose to stay. Spud, Tim, and the rest were led to private rooms, comfortable but sparsely furnished.

The Bogmaster led Thogsmash to his laboratory in the basement, and it was here the inevitable trap was sprung. He turned to the younger wizard and sent him into an enchanted sleep, then pulled a lever on the wall. This opened the trapdoors in the rooms above, dropping the rest of the party into a series of cells arrayed around a large chamber. The iron grates that covered the door was securely locked. The Bogmaster and his hooded servants entered carrying the limp body of Thogsmash. In the middle of the room was a large plant. When the Master approached it unfurled a long frond to cover Thogmash limp body.

"I have lost too many servants to the swamps of late," he cried. "You will do nicely to swell my ranks."

A large group of the hooded servants piled into each cell attempting to capture everyone. Each prisoner decided to make their final stand here. Spud tried to blast the attackers with magic, but he couldn't maintain the concentration long enough to form the spell. It did kick up a gust of wind, knocking loose the hood of the lead figure. Beneath was a man, or what was once a man. Married to the flesh of his bald head was a huge leaf, the long stem following the spine out of sight beneath the robes.


Coopdevil over at FightingFantasist had the clever idea of making a classic zines out of your last few blog posts. So check it: Carapace King the fanzine, from a distant when shoulder pads, ninja turtles, and neon everything ruled the land.

April 12, 2012

The Universe is Expanding

campaign world map

I've done some work on the old campaign map, adding in the Scabrous Lands that got a write-up last week. All the stuff up there in the unpleasant North are just evocative names for me to flesh-out later, but the geography is set, unless I change it. I'm getting a kick out of bolting more pixels onto the original file and then going wild. Infinite paper is best paper!

April 10, 2012

A Scheme is Wrought

Today's session included Tim and Diesel the thieves and Boff the dwarf. A bit light, but three is a quorum. The missing wizards Spud and Thogsmash were considered on autopilot, and controlled by Boff's player.

Last week the session ended with the group in possession of the fence Enrik, and the cash he was carrying to pay off the kidnappers of Thogsmash. We picked things up there with the thoroughly mind controlled Enrik following along like a lifelong friend. He eagerly shared the Bogmaster's plan, which proved more complex than anyone thought. Enrik would hand off the nascent wizard to the leader of a Andish caravan named Hanzi. Headed to the town of Gort in the swamplands, he would deliver Thogsmash to his master in Orget forest. The group would leave in eight days time. That gave everyone enough time to tie up unfinished business in Hamanda Jakla. Andoko, the guild leader had sent them to Smoleng months ago, owed them the rest of their fee. He was surprisingly quick to repay his debt.

With new gold burning holes in their pockets they hired a trio of city toughs for "security." Chances were high they would earn their pay as trap canaries. Thena the mustachioed warrior woman, Ool the kid with something to prove, and Dargor the thug signed on for gold and glory. But mostly gold. After shopping the group commenced strategizing a solution. Initially simply tracking the caravan seemed a perfect solution, but after weighing the odds of getting lost forever in a swamp the party decided to try to join the caravan, once again using Thogsmash as bait in their ploy. They set up a meeting with Hanzi, using Enrik as their in with the caravan head. Introducing themselves as guards especially hired to deal with any possible magical shenanigans they sweetened the deal by offering their services without pay (as Enrik and the wizard would be rewarding them all handsomely anyway.) Hanzi was slow to warm to the idea but eventually relented. As long as the wizard rode in the wagon with the rest of the slaves the band could serve.

That left only one loose end to tie up, what to do with Enrik? He was still deeply under Spud's control. He was happy to help in any way, but there was no way they could bring him along on the trip to And. There would be too many questions, and eventually the enchantment would fade, leaving a confused and deeply angry fence far from home. So, the day before the caravan left, they burst into his home.

"We have to go! The wizard has escaped! The Bogmaster is enraged has sent men to kill you! You don't have time to get your things, get out of town as fast as you can and talk to no one! We'll hold them off here!"

Enrik, muddled as he was, still had a healthy sense of self-preservation. Thanking the group profusely he fled, he would be a day's journey out of town before the spell wore off, and if things went according to plan the party would be letting the wizard escape soon enough anyway. It wasn't so much lying as soothsaying.

The next day the caravan departed. It was large and well guarded, Hanzi had hired twenty guards, all well armed, to protect the five wagons of trade goods and slaves. Each wagon had a single driver and a guard, with the rest spread around the group on horseback. The journey was uneventful, the fording of the Ringing River went without trouble, and the land soon grew damp and treacherous. The murky depths of Orget Forest loomed over the horizon, and instead of turning north along the common path Hanzi drove the caravan further westward, straight on toward the dismal treeline. Pressing through the party found itself on a narrow path between the trees, surrounding on either side by a murky swamp.

Suddenly, giant lizards dropped from the trees onto the first caravan. In the tight confines of the swamp road the guards had trouble against the hungry reptiles, and the driver and guard were mauled to death before anyone could render aid. A hard battle was fought by, Boff took several solid hits from their weighty tails, nearly knocking him off the road, but eventually the beasts were felled and their corpses left to rot in the mire.

April 04, 2012

The Scabrous Waste

North beyond the peaks of the Dark Mountains stretches a miserable waste of jumbled stone. In this blighted and terrible place the sun shines only dimly over the high crags to the south, and the stars glimmer sharply in the thin air even during the day. Under this light exposed skin blisters and burns. It is for this reason the terrible land is called the Scabrous Waste. The Waste is a heap of broken rock and deep canyons that stretch out for leagues in all directions, growing more broken and blighted the farther one travels. A full month's journey north through this hellish terrain terminates at the White Wall, the uttermost end of this land. Not made by human hands, the Wall gleams like polished glass. Beyond the wall strange stars wheel impossibly bright. Staring too long into this void leads inevitably to blindness. It is impossibly thick, impossibly high, and impervious to any mortal attempt to scar it. But scarred it is, at its peak a thousand feet it ends suddenly in a ragged line. Whatever mind-boggling force broke the White Wall scattered huge shards from the titanic edifice across the entire Scabrous Waste. They glimmer even in the weak light and are one of the only points of reference when the ceaseless wind strengthens, kicking up dust storms that roll unstoppably through the dry land.

Despite being a horrible place to live, the Scabrous Waste is still home to a small number of humanoids, both civilized and not. They live within the few small towns that dot the land. Some are built into cracks and fissures that provide some respite from the endless wind, others are walled shanty towns, erecting barriers in mimicry of the fallen White Wall. All wear voluminous robes and hoods to protect themselves from the baleful light. Only the mad live outside or go uncovered, wandering in nomadic and cannibalistic bands.

The people of Ig know little about the wastes. They tell old stories tell about terrible realms of alien skies and pain beyond the mountains. Most go there in pursuit of riches. Lost cities, forgotten mines, and abandoned tombs all lie undiscovered among the heaped stone and shattered rock. Few who make the journey to the Scabrous Wastes ever return. The merchant families of Hamanda Jakla send a caravan every few years but lean profits keep them from more regular service. There are only three paths over the mountains so crossing into the land is difficult. To the east the Jute and Fiddleback passes, to the west only the Moroke defile.

Anyone moving across the Scabrous Waste takes 1d4 points of damage for each day of travel caused by the unnatural light of the area. A character wearing concealing robes doesn't take this damage.

Encounters (1d12)
  1. The ground gives a way! A hidden sinkhole opens up at the party's feet, threatening to drop them into a 1d4x10' deep pit, taking damage accordingly. Ref save DC 15 to avoid toppling into the pit and taking damage. There is a 10% chance that the pit opens up into a larger underground complex and a 30% chance it's the home of some terrible desert creature.
  2. Giant Scorpions clamber out from under rock outcroppings or shake themselves free of the surrounding dunes and go for the meatiest organs of the party.
  3. A sandstorm kicks up, lasting for 1d12 hours. Visibility is reduced to a few feet. Anyone not wearing protective clothes takes 1d6 damage an hour, otherwise they only take 1d4 points. Shelter such as a lean-to, camel, or tent protects against any damage.
  4. Giant Taratulas, ever hungry, creep out of their hidden nests and attack.
  5. Quicksand! What appeared to be a stretch of sand and dust is a stretch of dry quicksand. Anyone leading the party will sink over 1d6 rounds, after which they will quickly suffocate.
  6. Cannibal nomads, their uncovered flesh blistered and raw, attempt to ambush the party. Treat as Berzerkers.
  7. A rock slide or dune collapses onto the party. Ref save DC 10 to avoid taking the fall or take 1d10 damage.
  8. Them! A line of giant ants winds its way across the waste. They will not attack unless threatened. 25% of the time the party has stumbled onto a nest.
  9. The party encounters a trade caravan. 10% of the time the caravan is under attack from bandits.
  10. A spring supports a tiny oasis here. 75% of the time a predator is waiting to ambush anyone coming for a drink.
  11. A band of desiccated zombies tear themselves free from their graves. They wear the tattered finery of their extinct culture and carry rusty weapons.
  12. Attracted by the sound of footsteps, grey worms explode out of the ground and attack.

April 03, 2012

The Cost of Doing Business

After a lull that went on for far too long my group's schedules matched up tonight, Game Night was on! The party was unchanged from the last session, and we picked up immediately after the last. Also, I found time to do a quick sketch to go along with the session report.

The bandits who had stolen Thogsmash's treasure had been dispatched. Their leader, Vinkol Dane, led the party back to their camp tyhanks to the wizard's charm spell. The missing gold was found in sacks piled beside the campfire. Taking a moment to rest, the group interrogated Vinkol. He hadn't personally met the Bogmaster, but a fence named Enrik back in Hamanda Jakla who hired the group to capture Thogsmash if they could, and failing that to bring the loot to the city. A lot of time was wasted deciding whether or not they should take him with them, risking him shaking off the enchantment and escaping, or killing him outright. The party mounted their horses and set off again toward the city, bringing Vinkol along.

Their carnage did not go unnoticed. A pack of wild dogs was attracted by the stench of the corpses, and after having their fill of carrion loped off after the party. It was three days before the party noticed they were being tailed. Hoping to get scout whatever was following them, Spud sent his feline familiar Chairman Mao to spy. This did not go well as the dogs immediately treed the cat. Turning around to rescue his familiar, the party was surprised as the feral mutts tore out of the tall grass attacked. The dogs were especially hungry, and the battle was a hard fight. Diesel took to the tree with the cat to get away from the dogs, while Tim and Vinkol were both brought down under the weight of them. Luck was on Tim's side once more, but he added a new network of scars onto his increasingly frail body. Vinkol was not so lucky, the dogs had left him short an arm and nearly chewed off his face. They drove off the pack when Diesel performed a mercy kill. Thogsmash had a spell go catastrophically wrong, causing his fingers to grow into demonic claws as black as midnight. If this was the effect a single miscast, what did the Bogmaster, never seen without a concealing cowl, look like?

It took a few days for the party to track down Enrik in Hamanda Jakla. He agreed to meet the group at an alehouse called the Dead Duck, deep in the seedier sections of the city. The dwarf Boff goes in to negotiate, bringing Thogsmash in bound by trick knots. The deal was simple, in exchange for 200 gold pieces a head they would turn over the wizard for delivery to the Bogmaster. Boff counter-offered with payment for the whole gang (lying far afield and eaten by dogs.) Enrik demurred. "I'm not running a charity," he growled. "That's the cost of doing business." Agreeing, Boff led Enrik outside to avoid witnesses for the hand-off. A couple of thugs coalesced out of the crowd as they left the alehouse, falling into step behind the fence. Boff could smell the gold on them. The moment the hand-off began Tim and Diesel stepped out of the shadows, and, landing astonishingly keen blows, dropped Enrik's toughs. "What is this?" Enrik sputtered.

"The cost of doing business," replied the other wizard, stepping into the light.

Second Greatest Line of the session"Can I buy a pair of gloves? or maybe oven mitts?" By Thogsmash, on getting back to town after spell corruption (the first in the campaign!) gave him freaky claws.