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On the Megadungeon and 5th Edition Play

Hack & Slash - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 13:00
Numenhalla was designed and playtested using the Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert set of rules (colloquially B/X), which were optimized for dungeon style play and campaigns. The 5th edition of the worlds greatest role-playing game is designed around the three pillars of adventure, Exploration, Role-Playing, and Combat.
This differs significantly from the pillars of Megadungeon play. Whereas exploration in 5e is about discovery, exploration in a megadungeon is about resources. Combat occurs in a megadungeon often as a failure state. Role-playing in a megadungeon has more to do with “taking the role” of an individual hero, rather then representing a specific character. The challenge is for you, the player, to outwit the megadungeon, not develop a dynamic personality that comes out through interactions with non-player characters.
No one will take your books away if you decide to play differently, but embracing pure mega-dungeon play has a number of tremendous advantages. It allows free drop in and out play, supporting up to dozens of different players. No “catching up on the plot” is needed. Characters are in charge of determining their own risk/reward. Characters have complete agency within the dungeon. The design of such creates constant choices between risk and reward, making player choice significant.
However, 5th edition nearly obviates megadungeon design. Encumbrance is often handwaved, if used at all; this eliminates an entire pillar of play of figuring out how to safely extract treasure from the dungeon. When used, it’s complicated and non-intuitive (E.g. Strength to pounds, coins to pounds as opposed to Strength to coins.) The treasure itself becomes irrelevant because it no longer provides experience. Getting experience from combat means players are disincentivized to build positive relationships with factions. Gaining levels happens very quickly, granting the players powers and abilities that trivialize many encounters. Cantrips quickly remove any sort of resource management associated with exploration. Many of the skills are irrelevant to dungeon exploration.
Thankfully, only a few minor changes are needed. The below are the suggested changes to use 5th edition in a megadungeon campaign.
ChangesExperience is only given for combat when the players are attacked. If the players attack neutral creatures or non-hostile or non-attacking beings, or if they intentionally incite creatures to attack they gain no experience from the fight. Players gain no experience for random or wandering encounters.
Experience is given on a 1:1 basis for gold.
Experience is reduced by the difficulty level of the area. Areas are given a challenge rating. Adventuring in an area with a challenge rating lower then your level gives you experience equal to the the challenge rating divided by your level. (E.g. a level 4 character in a CR 3 area would get 3/4 experience. A level 2 character in a level 1 area would get 1/2 experience. A level 6 character in a level 2 area would get 1/3 experience.) This goes for all experience earned in easier areas, no matter what it comes from.
You can carry a number of significant items equal to your Strength. A significant item would be a suit of light or medium armor, a weapon, a bundle 5 of torches, a potion, a vial of oil, a lantern, 200 coins, etc. A suit of heavy armor or a bulky item takes 2 slots. If you have more than 1/2 your slots filled, you are encumbered per the variant rules in the 5th edition Player’s Handbook on page 176. If you are wearing a suit of armor that grants disadvantage on Stealth (Dex) checks, you are encumbered. If you have more than 3/4 of your slots filled, you are heavily encumbered. Let common sense carry the day.
Eliminate the “History (Int)” skill and replace it with “Appraisal (Int)”. Eliminate the “Survival (Wis)” skill and replace it with “Devices (Wis)”. The history of a megadungeon should be discovered, not already known. Survival is useless for the scale of exploration measured in hours and not days. A successful appraisal roll will give you the approximate value of a piece of treasure if it is examined for 1 minute. A successful devices roll will allow you to repair or disarm traps, repair machinery or equipment, or activate or use machinery. In Numenhalla, it will also allow you to install and repair Augatic parts.
Remove Darkvision from Elves, Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, and Tileflings. This leaves Dwarves and Gnomes as the only races that can see in the dark. For an adventure game, it would be tedious to track light sources. Megadungeons are more survival horror then adventure. Trying to survive in a pitch black underground environment filled with nightmares and terrors, light is a resource that must be carefully managed. Removing the ability of the dark to encroach upon the party significantly reduces the tension in megadungeon play.
The following changes are made to the spell lists:
  • Light is a 1st level spell for all classes.
  • Continual Flame is a 3rd level spell for all classes.
  • If Produce Flame is used 6 times, it consumes a first level spell slot.
  • Spells that do thunder damage or cause noise, immediately draw a hazard die roll.
  • Spells require material components. Identify is powerful in a megadungeon, less so if it requires 100 gp in pearl every time it is cast.

Revisions in PlayThe above were the initial changes I made when playtesting Numenhalla. I also discovered rather quickly that resources available to 5th edition players rapidly outstrip even high-level basic characters, in spite of the math curve on the proficiency modifier almost exactly matching that of Basic. Characters gain levels faster, have much larger pools of hit points and output greatly increased damage compared to basic characters. Encounters that would be challenging for a 5th or 6th level basic party due to numbers, would fail to challenge an equivalent 5th edition party.

Addressing this has to be carefully balanced against the feeling of character progression. Obviously if you just increase the danger everywhere as the players level, then they really aren't accomplishing much.

The issue is that the megadungeon is an open campaign, and should contain a variety of monsters that provide a threat to players of various skill levels as they advance. Often players will be retreading the same ground, but with new challenges. But the power-curve crawls so high, so quickly, in 5th edition that deadly encounters become trivial to even mid level parties. Whereas because of the lower power curve, a deadly encounter at first level is still a difficult and challenging one for a 7th or 8th level party in Basic.

Philosophically, this comes down to expectations in play. Modern games like 5th edition contain a large component of 'character advancement' as reward. But if the activities in the game don't change due to this advancement, then it's functionally illusory. You are simply rolling larger and larger dice. The activities and opportunities in a megadungeon do change as basic characters advance, they gain more endurance and the ability to address new a difficult problems. This is also true of 5th edition characters, but the scale is simply much, much more extreme.

A basic fighter will have about 6 hit points at first level, 19 at 3rd, and 39 at 6th level. A 5th edition fighter will have about about 12 hit points at first level, 28 at 3rd level and 52 at 6th level. 5th edition monsters have a more gradated curve of damage output in order to handle the higher abilities of the characters. The encounters and areas must also follow this design in order to provide challenge for the players.

Here are my thoughts on how to address the issue.

  • I've separated 5th edition advancement into separate tiers of play. When entering a new area, it becomes 'locked' at the tier in which the party entered. Later, when restocking, the tier can be adjusted. Note that there is no reason for this to be exploitable. You're a human being. If they haven't been to an area other than to stick their head in, then it isn't locked as anything. This is simply a way to address difficulty without yanking the rug out from underneath the players in terms of expectations of growing in power. 
  • Each of these tiers has their own encounter table and monster encounters for each faction and encounter in the area. 
  • Certain monsters and traps will be considered legendary, having access to a higher threat level based on the average threat of the area. This will still allow dangerous things in areas as well as allowing players to return to an area to defeat a tough opponent. 
Adventurer covers level 1-4, Heroic covers levels 5-8, and Super-heroic covers levels 9-12. Higher then 12th level in 5th edition, and you're coming up against the bounds of what a static environment like a mega-dungeon can provide. Basic characters don't even gain hit points past level 8. Note that 12th level is only 100,000 experience, which in Basic games would only allow you to rise to level 6. 
It's suggested for this reason (more rapid advancement, greater power, etc.) that the general experience available for megadungeon play be (severely) constrained. Players shouldn't gain a level every session or two, aiming for a more traditional rate of 1 level every 4-6 weeks to level 7, and then every 8-12 sessions after that. 
For those of you reading the above with jaws struck slack at taking 2 years to get a character to level 8 or 9, that is the way things used to be. It would often take even longer being that tables had 6-12 people in a session and megadungeons often had around 50-60 players. The list of people who've been to Numenhalla is easily that long. 
Megadungeons are about challenging the player through rewarding play experience, rather than rewarding the player with advancement for experiencing play. I love leveling up and getting new powers as much as the next person, but that excludes wonderful styles of play. The above is how I hope to address it.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Beneath Rock Candy Mountain

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 12:00
This post originally appeared in November of 2010. It's genesis was a comment by Garrisonjim over at Hereticwerks. Jim is back blogging again, so it seemed appropriate:


It’s imparted by the sagacious urban druids that contemplate on street corners and rumored by stoned hobogoblins that pass canned heat ‘round campfires that there is an earthly paradise hidden in the great mountains of the West. The wondrous land’s fame has even spread to the world we know, where balladeers longingly recount the virtues of the Rock Candy Mountain or the Hobo’s Paradise.

The hidden mountain valley (so the tales claim) sits in the benevolent shadow of a mountain of candy (or at least with the appearance of such) and boasts trees which grow cigarettes, whiskey running in streams, and ponds of hearty stew. The inhabitants of the valley comport themselves like those in small towns elsewhere, but they are unfailingly friendly, even deferential, to the lowliest of visitors—perhaps especially the lowliest. No crimes against property are prosecuted; in fact, everything is given freely.

Adventurers, notorious hard cases (or thinking of themselves as such), scoff at those yarns. Calloused to eldritch horrors and exotic treasures alike, they’re disinclined to get misty over vagrants’ fairy tales of a hobotopia. Still, a few have caught the fever and gone looking over the years. As far as is known, none have returned.

Even in the tales, the way to the Hobo’s Paradise isn’t easy. Though the trail’s exact location is unknown, it’s believed to run treacherously through the cold heights of the Stoney Mountains. Mine slavers and road agents haunt the lower parts of the trail, while apemen guard the more remote passes.

These may not be the only dangers. Certain heterodox urban druids believe that this Paradise may not be what it appears from a distance. The air that should be fresh and sweet is instead choked with the stench of an abattoir. The whiskey streams are spiked with methanol and cause blindness, delirium, and death. And the smiling, wooden-legged constables and comic railyard bulls, aren’t benevolent—and aren’t even human behind their skin masks.

Could be that more than teeth rot in the shadow of the Rock Candy Mountain.

State of the Tavern Master - Post Con Con Crud - Stage 2 - Get Outa My Head!

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 00:47
Earlier this week, starting Monday morning, my stomach wasn't quite right. That passed by Friday. Yesterday my sinuses started acting up. Today, runny nose, sniffles and sinus headache.

That's it! All of my projects are getting pushed back 6 days, weeks, months, years! Damn you Sharka! Damn you!

Seriously, the headaches are the real distraction. I may be slowing down for a few days. Or not.

I mean, Gareth is due for a nudge and the GMF seems to have given up. Can't believe its almost 2 years since I started poking that hornets' nest...
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bundle of Holding - Old School Revival +5

Tenkar's Tavern - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 23:32

Yeah, I'm a bit late on sharing this but I'm still in catch up mode. Maybe I need to bring my laptop to the booth next con so I can get some extra blogging in ;)

Anyhow, we now have the Old School Revival + 5 Bundle of Holding. The starter collection is $12.95 and what do you get?

  • The Nightmares Underneath (Red Box Vancouver, retail price $15): Johnstone Metzger (Adventures on Dungeon Planet) presents a complete game of Dream Kingdom incursions in the waking world -- invasions that manifest as dungeons to be crawled and destroyed. (never heard of prior)
  • Mortzengersturm, The Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak (Hydra Cooperative, retail $8): Trey Causey's deceptively whimsical foray into a wild wizard's mad magic mansion. (well done adventure)
  • Gathox Vertical Slum (DIY RPG Productions, retail $10): A gonzo transdimensional campaign by David Lewis Johnson, set in a city growing on the back of a world-hopping godling. (never heard of this either)
  • Red Tide (Sine Nomine Publishing, retail $8): Kevin Crawford's sandbox campaign in the savage jungles of the Sunset Isles. [Originally presented in our November 2013 Worldbuilder's Toolkit.] (another awesome piece of work by Kevin)
So, the Starter Collection has two solid pieces and two I can't really comment on as I never came across them prior. Which means I don't have two parts of the Start Collection.
What about the Bonus Collection (currently at $25.55)?
    • Index Card RPG (Runehammer Games, retail $16.50): The bestselling fast-play light-rules system from the creators of Drunkens & Dragons on YouTube. (yeah, never heard of it - Copper on RPGNow and no rank on DTRPG. Claims it went Gold - not sure where - apparently it went Platinum on DTRPG - I stand corrected) not sure how this is old school either)
  • Dragon Kings (Soldier-Spy, retail $20): Dark Sun co-designer Timothy Brown created its spiritual successor, a sand-blasted desert of desperate city-states, monstrous rulers, and dark sorcery. (I remember the Kickstarter and I'm interested in seeing how this turned out)
  • An Echo, Resounding (Sine Nomine, retail $10): Kevin Crawford brings Game of Thrones-style domain-level struggles to the untamed wilderlands of Red Tide or any campaign (Yes, more Kevin. Another solid release)
  • 2016 Dodecahedron Cartographic Review (ZERObarrier, retail $8.50): Dyson Logos, king-hell master of dungeon cartography, gathers new works from his Dyson's Dodecahedron blog. Includes Dyson's Business Cardography, ten business card-sized geomorphic dungeon maps available only in this offer and nowhere else. (Dyson IS maps. 'Nuff said)
  • NEW! The Crimson Pandect (Sine Nomine, retail $10): Kevin Crawford's expansive sorcery system for Red Tide or any Old School game. With this addition, this OSR collection now has all three Red Tide books. (my God - I somehow missed this!)
  • NEWER! City of Poison (Red Box Vancouver, retail $5): A sample Dream Kingdom incursion by Johnstone Metzger for The Nightmares Underneath. (I missed this one. Looks interesting)
Very much a mixed bag. I you have none of the above, the value is good even with some potential misses. If you have more than two or three listed above, you might be digging a bit deep to find value. That being said, Dragon-Kings and The Crimson Pandect alone might make this worth my purchase.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[CAMPAIGN JOURNAL] The Inheritance #14: The Lord of the Mountains

Beyond Fomalhaut - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 20:21
Participants:
  • Drusus the Historian, 4th level human Magic-User
  • Drolhaf Haffnarskørung, 6th level human Thief/Fighter
  • Lafadriel Hundertwasser, 4th level elven Fighter
  • Armand the Scumbag, 4th level human Thief
  • Phil the Terror of Turkeys, 5thlevel hobbit Thief/Archer

 The forest was dead. The birds were silent, and the branches were like the hands of the dead, bearing funereal veils of moss and lichen. They walked in silence until Armand – who has looking in the undergrowth for something he could find useful – bid the company stop.“Ahead of us – voices!”The sounds were human moans mixed with odd, bubbling noises. Creeping forward, they spied a clearing dominated by a massive old tree, black and rotten. Around the trunk, naked, pale humans crawled in the mud like beasts, their eyes vacant and dull. They wore chains bound them to the tree, and were absorbed in fighting or sitting and wailing. Drolhaf Haffnarskørung quietly motioned for the others to keep walking, and put a distance between them and the strange vision, until they were out of the dead zone. It was growing dark by the time they reached the lower slopes of the mountains. Phil found a cave which looked abandoned and didn’t smell of wild animals, and here they rested a night.
***
The forests receded and were replaced by moraines and giant boulders. The snowy summits loomed high above them, and they were buffeted by freezing winds. There was no sign of life in this wasteland. It was Armand who discovered the road, winding around the mountainside and disappearing in a gap between two peaks. It was irregular and seemingly built of enormous stones too large to be moved by men, but it was a road all right. It lead upwards and to the east, until the two sides of a narrow gorge rose up around it. The company passed through the gloomy silence, and after a few hours, reached a branch. The main road continued eastwards, while a more narrow way, built of the same massive stones, went north, before disappearing between an enormous arch formed of two massive, fallen stones.
They passed under the stones, hurled against each other by the mighty forces of nature, and emerged on a slope overlooking a small valley dominated by the green of lush trees, and a central meadow bisected by a crystal-clear stream. The way lead down into the tiny forest, while right across them, looming high, rose the tallest peak of the mountains, snow-covered and quiet. Up high, a serpentine road seemed to climb up to a cave entrance; above, three massive arched openings, closed off by metal grilles, yawned in the sheer cliff face. On top of the peak, they could make out the snowy ruins of a tower or small keep, barely more than a collection of walls and debris piles.“Whatever this is, we have found what we were looking for,” said Phil.
***
The road melted into a forest trail surrounded by gnarled old trees. Soon, the path forked before a comfortable-looking stone bench, holding a pitcher of clear water. To the left, the path curved, crossing a stream flowing southwest. Lafadriel heard a distant sound like geese honking, while Armand studied a tree that looked a bit like its knots formed a human face... or was it just a random pattern? Phil climbed up on another tree, and sunk his hand into a bird’s nest, retrieving two eggs made of solid gold.
The Garden in the MountainsThey crossed the stream, and soon emerged in the meadow at the centre of the valley. The grass was green and wholesome, and clusters of colourful wildflowers were everywhere. Across the meadow, a gaggle of eight white swans were hunting for snails. In the middle of the clear area, a statue stood on a pedestal with some kind of writing on the base. It was a full-scale rendition of a moustached nomad standing triumphantly, raising a scimitar above his head, next to his companion, a rearing griffin. There was a living figure next to the statue: a lady in fine clothes, standing silently and looking the other way.“Let’s approach her” suggested Drolhaf, and they crossed the meadow, following the stream.
Something is wrong” Phil hissed.They were not any closer to the statue, but in the meadow’s north-eastern corner. The eight swans were peacefully grazing to their south, and as they looked back to the centre, they saw the statue, but the lady had disappeared.“We are in the opposite corner, but the statue is still looking our way!” whispered Phil.Drusus cast detect magic, confirming the valley – all around them – was magical. Lafadriel, who had stopped to collect some of the wildflowers, saw that they were like no flowers he had ever seen; their blossoms and leaves were conjoined in a blooming tangle.“Let’s try retracing our steps to the southwest.”Following Drolhaf’s suggestion, they made their way back to their starting point. The eight swans were peacefully plucking something from the grass to the northwest, and the statue was looking back in their direction.
Drolhaf spoke to no one in particular: “I have come with good intentions – I give the gift of flowers to the flowers.” He retrieved a vial filled with a rainbow liquid from his knapsack (once found by Franz Who Wasn’t Even There during a previous adventure), and poured it on the ground, burning a path through the grass towards the statue. This time, they emerged at the base of the monument. Looking around, Armand saw three swans hunting to their southwest, but no trace of the mysterious woman.“Wait, three swans?” asked Lafadriel.“I try to disbelieve the illusion” said Drolhaf, but nothing changed. “Hm. Let’s try reading the inscription – these are some really tiny letters.”The letters below the statue read: “THE SWANS ARE CLOSER THAN THEY SEEM”“The what? ... HEY!”The swans were right there next to them! They struck furiously with their bills, and Drusus almost fell to a grievous wound, while Armand and Lafadriel got smaller bites. Once he could react, Drusus recovered enough of his wits to cast burning hands, scorching the swans, while the others fought in vain to hit them. Suddenly, the angered waterfowl were gone. They were alone next to the statue, and a group of six swans were grazing peacefully in the meadow’s NW corner.“The wounds are real” said Drusus, disappointed.“Maybe it really is an illusion” said Drolhaf.“Or some sort of spatial distortion” added Phil the Terror of Turkeys. “Could be the pollen” he continued as he masked his face with a piece of cloth, followed by Armand the Scumbag.
The place we are looking for is to the north. Looking that way, you can see two paths starting from the NE corner. Let’s start with the northern one.”Following the suggestion, they approached the semi-circular narrow garden path. Halfway, there was a snow-white marble pillar with a vase on the top, both bisected by a single long crack.Drusus had an idea. “Let’s try something different.” He cast a spell, and began to levitate upwards, rising above the valley. He saw the trees below them, and a mountain path to his northeast, starting from the east of the valley. He levitated back down, and told the others of his discovery.“Let’s just see the western part first before we go east” said Drolhaf.
Back at the meadow’s NW corner, they spotted the western path starting from the SW corner. Some way into the lush woods, they found themselves next to a marble pavilion. A circle of columns stood on a half-sunken foundation overgrown with grass, and a broken white marble dome rose over the columns. Approaching the structure, Drolhaf Haffnarskørung noticed something shimmering between the columns, surrounding the interior – a slight distortion or refraction, barely visible. Inside, something seemed to stir, but it was just a hint of movement – or perhaps another trick of the light. Testing the shimmering with a rock, then a stick, it proved to be some kind of force repelling all intrusion. Meanwhile, Lafadriel, who was watching the forest, made another unpleasant discovery.“There are no snails and insects here. This place is completely barren. And those trees – look! They are identical.”Looking more closely, the ruse was obvious. The trees were completely like each other, and their green leaves were perfect imitations of a single uniform shape.“It is like someone created this place,” murmured Phil “but he was too careless or lazy to pay attention to the details.”“That’d explain the wildflowers I saw” nodded Lafadriel.
Proceeding further west, than back northeast, they saw a comfortable-looking stone bench, holding a pitcher of clear water. Drolhaf was now sure: “Yes, we have seen it before.”Back at the NW corner of the clearing, they saw a flock of five geese playing in the stream to the southeast. An elegant lady stood next to the statue in the middle with her back to them. The exit of the northern path they had emerged from a little time ago was nowhere to be seen.“Well then.”There was a way to the east from the NE corner, and they took this path through the perfect, alien forest. Halfway along the path, there was a snow-white marble pillar with a vase on the top, both bisected by a single long crack. But there was also something else: a stone path passed below an arch of two massive rocks, going steeply upwards and turning north in a bend.Lafadriel was sceptical: “This could just be the way we came in.”“Do you have any better ideas?”“Yes, go back to the road and leave this place.”“No way. We have to get to that tower.”“How much time has passed since we got here?” asked Armand, and looked up at the sun, which was still right above them. “It is noon. Just like when we got here. It could always be noon here.
***
The trail was steep and unpleasant to climb, the stairs too high for their legs and seemingly endless. After a while, they emerged somewhere above the green valley, on a ledge buffeted by cold winds. Four great stone faces in the cliff wall stared at them with empty eyes and mouths.“Are these representations of Keora? No... the goddess is female, and these are male heads” mused Drolhaf.“They resemble the giants of the old eras” spoke Drusus the Historian.“WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THE REALM OF THE MOUNTAINS’ MYSTERY?” A booming sound came from one of the heads.“We have come looking for… uh… this place, oh faces!”“HE HAD STRUCK WOUNDS INTO THE STONE” the voice replied.Another head joined in: “HE HAD BUILT A HEAP FROM THE BONES OF THE CLIFFS.”The third spoke: “HE HAD BRIDGED DEPTH AND DECAPITATED HEIGHT.”And the fourth rumbled: “HE HAD ENSLAVED THE MOUNTAINS...”“We are on our way!” Drolhaf responded, and was quick on his feet to get as far away from the ledge as possible.
They climbed further up, and after what seemed like a very long time, were at the base of the final summit, snow-covered and quiet. The path ended in a vaulted entrance leading into the mountain; to either side stood two statues of the nomad warrior from the meadow down below, one headless and one with his upraised blade broken off and lost. Stepping inside, there was an abandoned watch station to the left, and a set of stairs leading upwards.
The Mountain Tower

The steps lead into a vast hall lit by three enormous archways cut into the side of the mountain, but closed off by enormous brass grilles. Giant winches to be operated by multiple men stood next to them. The hall itself consisted of three “piers” with 10’ deep “bays” between them, filled with heaps of blackened, leathery bodies and bones, the remnants of some ancient massacre. Peering down, they saw broken weapons, and something else – the bodies were entangled in rotten harnesses. There was a large archway leading deeper into the mountain, and wide stairs climbing up, flanked by the bas-reliefs of rearing griffins.“What were the bays for? Enormous swans?”“This could be related to the island’s giants in some way.”“Remember the legend of the griffin rider of this isle?” said Drusus. “This could be the same man. He was reputed to save people from peril.”“Wasn’t that man a pegasus rider?”“He had bridged depth…” said Drolhaf.“Maybe this was not the man of the legends” countered Phil the Terror of Turkeys. “Maybe you’d call for his help and he’d just appear and kill you.”There was some kind of movement from the stairs above. A group of glowing, spectral warriors appeared, coming down their way, nomads with pointed helmets and glinting phantasmal spears. Drolhaf Haffnarskørung raised his hand in a gesture of peace: “Respect for the brave! We have come with the permission of the giants!”The figures attacked wordlessly, striking wound after wound, but fortunately, they eventually fell to the company’s weapons.
Climbing further up the wide stairs, they emerged in an octagonal, vaulted chamber. There were spiral stairs further up, four doors in the diagonal corners, and passages to the east and west. Drusus was the first to investigate, opening the door to the northeast. The room was filled with a heap of discarded, mouldering clothes and rags, of all makes and sizes. Drusus rifled through them to see if they had any valuables, but suddenly, he felt something dragging him inside the pile. The rags fell on him to cover his face and suffocate him, and he was almost gone under the heaving mass, but at last the others could drag him away. Bitterly, he spoke the words of a flaming sphere, burning through the old remains and producing an oily smoke. The other rooms were also filled with similar cast-offs; there was nothing of apparent value.
Lower level
The passage to the east was flanked from the sides by several barred doors opening into small cells. Chains clinked and dragged themselves inside them, and Drusus was careful to watch them out of the corner of his eye, while also looking at a set of stairs descending downwards. At the end of the passage, a reinforced wooden door opened into a domed room filled with an unruly heap of pointy spears, resembling a large hedgehog. Tattered remains of uniforms hang on the spear shafts, punctured by numerous stab wounds. Across the room, there seemed to be spiral stairs going down, but looking at the spears, they decided to withdraw back to the octagonal room.
Drusus was the first to speak: “I am starting to believe this wasn’t the place Tomurgen was speaking of.”“Nevertheless... if we are already here, we should see what the place has in store for us” argued Drolhaf.Armand looked testy: “Maybe it just wants to kill us.”Finally, going with Drolhaf’s suggestion, they checked the western passage, which had doors to the side and at the end. The first door opened into a rectangular storeroom. Around the walls, there were disembodied, spectral things that looked like piles of something; colourful mists swirled on rotting wooden shelves. Drolhaf entered carefully, probing the clouds with the butt of his spear, experiencing something solid. Touching with his hand, he felt something smooth and rectangular, yet slowly pulsating. A handle. He pulled, and was in possession of a wooden drawer filled with old silverware.“Now that’s interesting.”“It is like things are sliding between reality and unreality?” guessed Phil.He opened another door, where a row of six misty globes stood in a row at chest height, dripping with red condensation. Then, checking the door at the end of the hallway, he entered a hexagonal room, where three larger, brighter clouds – blue, yellow and red – were pulsing at different rates, glowing with an inner light. Drolhaf reached for them, finding the yellow hot to the touch with a rapid pulse, the red warm and languid, and the blue cool and almost inert. He took the yellow globe and held it firmly…“I leave the room” declared Armand the Scumbag.“I leave the room” declared Lafadriel Hundertwasser.“I am already outside the room” declared Phil the Terror of Turkeys.“I have never even been inside the room” declared Drusus the Historian.Drolhaf reached, seizing the globe…
…and felt incredible pain exploding through his body as he was enveloped in super-bright flames and a volcanic heat. The pain was incredible, and Drolhaf suddenly realised the flasks of oil on his body weren’t helping…
...too late, as he burned, crying “Fire, walk with me!” in a desperate bid to bring it under control. “The flames are mine!” he bellowed, and collapsed naked, weak as an infant, yet somehow also stronger after surviving the incredible ordeal (+2 Strength). “I could use a little healing here” he croaked, before he lost consciousness.
***
The red one was really something” Drolhaf heard the voice of Phil the Terror of Turkeys. He was resting in one of the side rooms, meticulously cleared of the old clothes that had filled it. “He is awake, and looks better. Well, time to get going!
Taking the spiral stairs up, they found themselves in a round columned hall. Grey daylight streamed in through small windows set around the hall’s perimeter. In the centre, suspended from the domed ceiling by a thick chain, was a large iron cage holding a desiccated corpse. The features of the man were nomadic with a cruel sneer; he had been stabbed through by several spears still lodged in the mummified body. A stone scimitar lay below the cage.“That looks like something for the broken statue at the entrance!” guessed Drolhaf, and carefully crawled under the cage to retrieve the item.Drusus was not convinced about their safety: “He seems to be looking at us. Is the cage solid enough?
Looking for exits, Armand the Scumbag found a great, securely barred gate made of wood, and two hallways leading off from the domed chamber. Choosing the way to the east, they entered a long hall with its ceiling lost in darkness. A row of empty pedestals stretched all the way to the end, where they could see the triumphant statue of the griffin rider, letters inscribed on the base. Spiral stairs lead upwards, and a grand staircase started behind the statue.“Does something attack if we read the inscription? Any swans around?”“The pedestals are empty.”“Are they?” Phil pointed at faint, barely visible shapes on the twenty-six plinths. “Looks like glass or crystal... could be like the phantoms we fought, and there are 26 of them.”“What if I sent a flaming sphere along the row?” asked Drusus the Historian. Then he shrugged and walked up to the rider, reading aloud the sign: “I GAVE THE MOUNTAINS WHAT IS OF THE MOUNTAINSI GAVE THE WOODLANDS WHAT IS OF THE WOODLANDSI GAVE THE SEAS WHAT IS OF THE SEASTHE AIRS ABOVE WHAT IS OF THE AIRSRULING THEM TRIUMPHANT, THE POWER IN MY HANDS...”
Nothing here. I will scout ahead and see if there is anything dangerous.” Drusus walked up the winding grand stairs, eventually winding up on a circular gallery over a dark abyss. Cold winds wailed through empty windows, but the cold seemed to radiate from something else: a large golden heart that would fill a knapsack, suspended by a rope. He tried to grab it, and managed to dislocate the heavy metal piece, but could barely hold onto it as it seemed to freeze the marrow in his bones. He put it down on the gallery floor. Back in the hall of the statues, he told the tale and Drolhaf offered to make a try with the heart.“The power of fire will still protect me.”“But what of the crystal statues? This feels like a classic trap. If we bring it here, the statues will probably animate.”Returning to the heart, they all studied the heavy object which seemed immensely valuable.“This must be the heart of the mountains from Tomurgen’s poem. ‘Mountains’ heart, forest-hidden light / Two stone peaks and a third will show its proper site / It lies in the dreamer’s lap, secret hiding place / A deceitful flame marks it, bygone mirage lays.’”Armand didn’t believe it. “It was suspiciously easy to just find it laying here.”“But something has cursed the nomads living here. Are we sure it isn’t this heart?”“It is magical... actually, the rope is also magical.”Peering down the abyss below them, Drolhaf noted a pile of leathery corpses covered by snow carried in by the wind. “It all looks risky. Something willhappen if we take it.
Upper Levels
Deciding to leave the heart be for a while and investigate further, they pressed forward, into another tall, round gallery, this one dark save for narrow beams of light coming through small windows high above them. Six golden cages hang from the walls, filled with chirping, bouncing wisps of coloured light. At the far end of the gallery, Phil also spotted something more ominous – a heavy, lumbering shape seen from the corner of the eye, disappearing with a growl through an archway.“I am more and more sure this place is half real and half unreal” suggested Drusus.“That beast we just saw doesn’t look too scary if it is fleeing from us” said Phil.“Just don’t corner it; you may find it’ll take your head off.”Eventually, they decided to open the cages and take them for the gold value. The colourful balls scattered, twittering above their heads.“What have we unleashed on the world?!”“Tiny little pixies?
The Coastal MapInstead of pursuing the beastly apparition, they took the spiral stairs from the statue hall, arriving in a hexagonal room with two arched exits, one barred by a heavy door. In the middle of the room, an antique table held a hexagonal map with notations.“That tower in the middle of the mountains is where we are now. And look – you can see the coastal areas.”“Could this be the distant past?” ventured Lafadriel Hundertwasser. “We don’t know of this place marked ‘Bonifaces’, or ‘Catscliff’, and what is now the town of Sleepy Haven is called ‘Thanes’.”“Perhaps the Northman thanes had founded the original settlement. We should remove this parchment from the table surface; seems like there are some interesting places around.
The passage without the door lead to the bottom of the gallery where the heart had been suspended, and they took great care to avoid the browned corpses under the pile of accumulated snow. The octagonal room behind the barred door – which was locked but easy to open – seemed empty on a first look, permeated by clear white light. After a fruitless search for secret doors, they were ready to leave, when Drusus saw something out of the corner of his eyes.“Just a moment! There is something there!”“Where?”“There. Do you see it?”They could see it, too, from the odd angle: heaps of brocades embroidered with lions, rich tapestries and pearl chains on mounds of gold. The centrepiece was a marble pedestal with a winged helmet resting on a velvet cushion, decorated with the emblem of the griffin rider.“Wait!” Phil exclaimed. “Is this the same helmet we found in the hall in Haghill Gadur Yir had opened?”“I’ll be damned! It is the exact same thing... no, wait. That one had a pegasus rider.”“Are you sure it was a pegasus rider?”“But it was in ‘The Chamber of the Griffin’.”“Now that’s something.

The next place they chose to visit was the tower’s west wing, reached through the other passage from the central chamber. Fighting a group of five phantom nomads, they emerged in a side room with a looming dark ceiling above dark-curtained windows, and roaring flames in a decorative fireplace. Drusus took a long look at the fire, and his gaze was drawn to what looked like human faces in the glowing embers, forming and disappearing in slow succession. There was a low murmur, and as he saw face after face, he finally saw one that caught his attention. It was the face of an unremarkable, indolent young man, but somehow he knew this man carried a great secret truth, and that he was a lost prisoner somewhere in a faraway underground place. Drusus studied the face and memorised its features before the apparition was gone.
Spiral stairs lead up, now to an empty room with further exits upwards and to the east. Choosing the latter way, the company was assaulted by a barrage of senses: the touch of fabrics and silks, the prickly sensation of horsehair blankets, the neighing of horses and the caress of soft arms. The eastern room was a narrow closet holding a collection of clothes. What they at first thought to be an illusion proved to be some princely gear: Drusus the Historian tried on the coolest pair of green dragonskin boots in existence, and topped it off with a golden diadem that seemed to fit him perfectly. Armand the Scumbag was satisfied with an outfit of fur coat that made him look like a wealthy lord.
Back in the previous room, they had to defeat a group of phantom nomads, but they seemed to fall easily. The stairs up lead to a semi-circular gallery lit by several tall windows. It was cold and empty save for a pedestal to the side, holding a red cap with a golden tassel on top of a stone head. Forward, stairs lead further up towards the top of the tower.“The head looks like it belongs to that statue next to the entrance” said Drolhaf. He started for the pedestal, but was stopped in his tracks as his transparent mirror image appeared out of the thin air. Drolhaf held up his hand in a gesture of peace, but the apparition was going for his weapon, and as others joined Drolhaf, they were also confronted by their phantom reflections. They chose it wiser to make a strategic retreat and discuss their options. Eventually, shielded with a protection from evil spell, Drolhaf chose to enter the room again, and snatch the cap and the head while dodging the blows raining down on him.
How shall we proceed further?”“I think we have overstayed our welcome. We can come back another time, but we are exhausted and wounded. That large beast is still lurking out there, and if these passages connect, I’d rather not face it.”The remaining task was to retrieve the golden heart. Warmed within a fur coat, it was suspended from a spear haft and carefully carried down the grand stairs, but despite all expectations, no statues animated, and no forces of the weird tower would muster to thwart their progress, although a growling sound from the western wing seemed to warn of something large and ominous. They descended below the tower level, and down many stairs until they reached the exit with the two statues. Putting the scimitar in its place, a metal sword fell from the hand of one statue, clattering on the stones, and snatched up by the eager Phil the Terror of Turkeys:“This will make a nice weapon for me. Looks sharp!”Placing the head on the other statue’s neck, it emitted a bellowing battle cry that echoed through the silent mountains, filling the company with sureness and purpose (+3 to max Hp).“We may have to come back for the rest” pondered Drolhaf, but looking back on the mountain door, he saw only a bare stone surface, as if no entrance had ever been there. Looking up on the summit, where they had explored a great tower, were only the degraded remains of snow-covered walls. “Or maybe it will all stay there forever.”They walked down the serpentine path, towards the valley garden and the eastern road in the direction of Sleepy Haven.
(Session date 7 October 2017).
***
Notable quotes:Lafadriel Hundertwasser: “This is a seriously low-budget valley.
Drolhaf to Lafadriel (after Drusus tried on the expensive boots and the golden diadem): “Is your god also Robespierre?
***
Referee’s notes: This expedition into a strange place resulted in more magical gear than actual clues: only one or two secrets of the tower were found, and from the GM’s side of the screen, it felt a bit like scratching the surface. However, the party was also severely wounded and running on luck and perseverance after the initial encounters, so they were also playing careful. There was a beautiful bit of lateral thinking involved with burning a path to the statue in the centre of the meadow – nothing had been written on this possibility, but it all made complete sense when it happened. But yes, the tower had kept some of its most important secrets.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

My AthensCon Activities

Lake Geneva Original Campaign - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 20:19
Here are snaps from the AthensCon site detailing my activities for the convention December 2 & 3.

There might be another panel; and if there is I will update this post.

Happy Gaming All!




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Character Workshop & Loose On The Streets Of Olathoe Session Report

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 18:25
So last night I got together with friends to have a character workshop using Adventurer,Conqueror, King & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition. Character workshops enable me to make sure the players are all on the same page with their PC's. All of the players are extensively experienced Dungeons & Dragons players who have played a number of editions over their timeNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Underground Comics is Slowly Being Unearthed

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 15:00
Though we don't expect to release it until first quarter of 2018, the various creators involved in Underground Comics #1 are fired up and hard at work. Here's a bit of a "Sunday Comics Section" teaser of the work in progress:

A panel from Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable story:


Part of an almost completed first page from James V. West's "Zarp: Croak of the Frost Toad":


And Jeff Call's Dungeon Dog gets some ink:


More to come!

Kickstarter - The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia for 5E

Tenkar's Tavern - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 03:42


Quick and to the point. I have The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia / OSR Edition and it looks friggin' amazing. I'm already trying to figure out pieces I can sneak into my current Swords & Wizardry Continual Light campaign.
If you are a 5e player, I suspect The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia for 5E will be a fine addition to your 5e collection.What is the Forbidden Caverns of Archaia? The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia is a massive 5E adventure inspired by the modules published during the Golden Age of fantasy role-playing. Forbidden Caverns was Kickstarted in August of 2016 (for the Labyrinth Lord OSR Rules) and fulfilled on-time one year later. The Project: This project is to fund the conversion and updating of the content (as well as a new layout and corresponding art) from Labyrinth Lord to the 5th Edition of the world's most popular role-playing game. The Goal: The goal is to raise $6,000 to fund the revisions outlined above and to bring the PDFs and the physical book to backers as soon as possible. The conversion of the content to 5E is already underway. I expect to deliver ahead of schedule. What is Included? Forbidden Caverns of Archaia is 296+ pages of 5E awesomeness and includes:
  • A fully-fleshed out gazetteer of The Prelacy of Middenmark
  • The detailed town of Eastdale to provide a base of operations
  • 55 unique dungeon locations
  • The Hellfire Furance (a ruined city below a great volcano)
  • Handouts including 37 unique illustrations for players
  • Pregenerated characters
  • A new monster section (101 monsters all with unique illustrations!)
  • A new spell system
  • New spells and magic items
  • A custom Forbidden Caverns 5e character sheet
  • Two large poster maps

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

November Campaign Design VI - Aedgaria

Greyhawk Grognard - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 22:00
Following on the previous installment where I talk about the second of the three colonies in some detail, I'm rounding out Aedgaria in this post.


Aedgaria is the last of the three colonies to be founded, by the kingdom of Wynnland. Because of this, they got the leftovers when it came to territory, and even had to split the colony into areas, North and South Aedgaria. It's still a feudal society, though, with his grace John II, Duke of Aedgaria as ruler under the king, far off to the west over the Stormsea. Beneath him are several earls and barons that administer the land.

Aedgaria is almost entirely agricultural, with its relatively small population clustered around its towns and the roads that connect them. The one large-scale building project, the Long Road that connects Dubton with Port Westview in South Aedgaria, was personally paid for by a consortium of merchants who bankrupted themselves in the attempt, as the flow of goods from New Valais to the port never materialized. The duke, realizing the value of the road for the internal development of the colony, pays for its maintenance along with the earl of South Aedgaria.

Where the other two colonies brought in goblins, hobgoblins, norkers, and bugbears to serve as mercenary troops, Aedgaria brought in halflings to till the soil and make the land bloom, and in that respect they have been very successful. Halfling and human settlements exist peacefully side-by-side or completely integrated. The military consists almost entirely of local militia that drills regularly, and consists of light infantry, slingers, and archers. Each noble maintains a small force at arms, of course, but they are limited in number compared to Lippegen's mercenary contingents.

Each half of the colony is ruled by an earl. The south is governed by Thomas Westlake, Lord of South Aedgaria. He is an old codger, son of the original earl, with an enormous family who are involved in all aspects of administration of the colony, forming a mini-oligarchy. Most of the day-to-day duties are handled by his oldest sons, who are quite competent.

Port Westview is the seat of ducal power, and the town itself falls within the duke's personal demesne. Intended to be the preeminent port in Artanis, it's turned out to be something of a disappointment on that score, serving Wynnland shipping, but little else. Large numbers of convicted criminals were shipped in to help build the port on the promise of freedom afterwards, but that has backfired. Desperate for traffic, the place has become something of a haven for smugglers from other lands to the west attempting to evade the tariffs and regulations imposed by Lippegen and New Valais. This, combined with a much larger-than-usual criminal element among the population, has led to a situation where several gangs compete for control of the city's criminal and other activities. The duke and his officials seem unconcerned with this, but the law abiding elements of the populace, numbering 8,000 total, is less than pleased.

Ulfmore is the meat capital of Aedgaria. Flocks of sheep, herds of pigs and cattle, and other more exotic sources of meat are all found here in great abundance. There are more halflings here than humans, but the baron, Josef Royt, is actually of Sacarian stock; a tiny but proud land between Grott-Heimburg and Valais. His family was driven out after a pro-Grott-Heimburg coup, and his father found his way here, marrying into the baronial title. The town itself, with its population of some 7,000, is built on the ruins of an ancient Artanian city, and this gives it a very distinctive architectural style, as the ruins were used as a quarry for the new settlement.

Dubton is on the border with New Valais, and quite a bit of trade takes place between the two colonies here. Baron Ulred Green is still stinging from his father's defeat by New Valais, in which the family estates on Green Island were lost, but most of the populace has long since forgotten the decades-old conflict. He has been quietly building up his personal forces, but it's unlikely he'll come anywhere close to the strength of the Valasian goblinoid mercenaries.

The Islands of the Five Mists technically form their own barony, but the position is vacant and the duke seems to be in no hurry to fill the seat. The islands themselves are a merger of human villages and underwater settlements of tritons, mermen, locathah, and sea elves. The various races live in harmony, and fishing is the only industry of any note.

The north is governed by Wallace Ford III, Lord of North Aedgaria. He is young, intelligent, and utterly depraved. Although he puts a genteel face on for public consumption, rumors swirl around the court about demon-worship, murders of lovers, and the like. He is married, and his young bride is sweet, innocent, and entirely silent regarding her husband's supposed peccadilloes.

Uffberryton is the largest town in the north, with a population of 7,000 or so. The Earl's castle is some miles outside the town, which is under the Baron Frederick Regeld, but governed by a Lord Mayor. Between its position as a port, confluence of roads between the other baronies, and being at the gate of trade with Lippegen, it's a prosperous place, relatively speaking.

Norton is mostly dedicated to fishing and whaling, although there are merfolk and locathah communities not too far offshore that provide some interesting opportunities for trade. One in particular is centered around an underwater gold mine, which provides some much-needed hard currency for the often-struggling Wynnland colony. The town has a population of 5,000, and there are many farmers in the surrounding countryside. The Baronness, Ursula Whitehouse, is a widow with a large fortune and a small family.

Northgate is uniquely situated at the only opportunity for true expansion in the whole of Aedgaria, to the north. The barony also controls the hills and mountains in the northern portion of the duchy, and there are quite a few active mines and much prospecting that goes on. The enormous pine forests and mountains to the north tempt quite a few explorers, but few are heard from, as they are home to numerous monsters and giants. It has a population of 6,000.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Midweek Monster Mayhem - The Bloody Ooze of Tenkarian (SWL / OSR)

Tenkar's Tavern - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 18:49
The Bloody Ooze of Tenkarian is a disturbing sight to see. This red, tendril like mass stands, if one can call it that, 5' high and lays a bit wider. It forms mouths, eyes, tendrils as needed. It attacks via these temporary mouths and tendrils. A successful attack requires a save against poison. A failed save slowly turns the victim into a Bloody Ooze themselves with a loss of 1 HP per round until dead or the infected area is washed off with alcohol - beer or wine is not strong enough, it must be whisky, rum or similar "hard" liquors. Weapons only inflict 1 HP per successful hit on a Bloody Ooze. Fire does full damage as does magic. Bloody Oozes are immune to magic sleep.

The Bloody Ooze of Tenkarian
AC: 7[12]    HD: 1d3   Attacks: 1d3 attacks at 1d3 damage each plus Special   Move: 9
Special: Detailed above

Art by Gary Dupuis

OGL

Gotta love the Con Crud ;)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

New OSR Spell - Summon Gremlins of Nightmare

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 07:06
Sleep is a pathless labyrinth, Dark to the gaze of moons and suns, Through which the exile clue of dreams, A gossamer thread, obscurely runs. The Maze of Sleep  (1912) by Clark Ashton Smith Summon Gremlins of Nightmare Level: illusionist 2, wizard 3, witch 2, shaman 1 Range 120 feet, Duration 6 turns (1 hour) The wizard, shaman, witch or illusionist reaches deep into the realms Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Midweek Monster Mayhem - Eyes of Malifial (SWCL / OSR)

Tenkar's Tavern - Sat, 11/11/2017 - 03:42


Eyes of Malifial
are servants of Malifial of the Eye. These giant floating eyes are about 4 feet from lowest tendril to the top of the eye. While usually found in pairs they apparently communicate telepathically with their own kind and when confronted reinforcements (numbering 1d6) are usually 1d3 rounds away.

Eyes of Malifial have two types of attacks. The first is a hypnotic gaze. If the target fails its save (no attack roll is needed) they become immobile for 1d6 rounds, unable to move, attack or defend themselves (no dex bonus, no shield bonus and attacks are at + 2 to hit the stunned target). The second attack is a heat beam attack. Such attacks are made at stunned opponents (as detailed above) and inflict 1d6 heat / fire damage. If the target is wearing metal armor an additional point of damage is inflicted. There is no save against this attack.

Eyes of Malifial
AC: 6[13]    HD: 3   Attacks: Special   Move: 6
Special: Detailed above

Publisher's Choice Quality Stock Art Copyright Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

OGL

Playing catch up due to last week's convention. Bear with me ;)



Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fat Goblin Games $1 Stock Art Sale - 24 Hours Only!

Tenkar's Tavern - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 23:42


From an email I received late this afternoon:Sometimes in this industry projects fall apart, clients don't pay, or sometimes things just get delayed. Unfortunately, having a few of these happen at the same time can put you in a bind, especially when being the bread-winner for the family. . . and this time of the year getting behind on bills can be the worst. Well, I'm behind on a bunch of things that need to be paid now - not in a few weeks when other projects pay off.  So, for the next 24 hours, all stock art is marked down to a $1. Yeah, I hate doing it, but don't have a choice as things can snowball in these situations and get worse. The dollar sale includes everything. Subscriptions have been marked down to $75. This is all for the next 24 hours. Take advantage of my situation and get yourself some great resources. I would really appreciate it. Also, if you are friends with me or Fat Goblin Games on FB, twitter, G+, etc. I posted up a cover for sale - check it out and make me an offer. You have 24 hours to take advantage of this sale. 
http://www.rpgnow.com/browse/pub/3865/Fat-Goblin-Games/subcategory/7767_9508/Publishers-Choice-Quality-Stockart&affiliate_id=1446

http://www.rpgnow.com/browse/pub/3865/Fat-Goblin-Games/subcategory/7767_25088/Publishers-Choice-Subscriptions&affiliate_id=1446

I just snagged the Lovecraftian Horrors sub for $75

Those are affiliate links above. Helps keep the lights on at The Tavern when you use them ;)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cavalier for 5th Edition

Greyhawk Grognard - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 19:05
Today is the hobby store release day for Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and apparently one of the things it includes is a cavalier martial archetype for the fighter class. It just so happens I also wrote up a cavalier martial archetype for my own Players Guide to Greyhawk 576, so I thought I'd share that here for comparison (I haven't seen the WotC book yet, because I pre-ordered it on Amazon, and apparently the hoi-polloi don't get the book for another couple of weeks).

My version is based on the cavalier sub-class from the 1st edition Unearthed Arcana book. Wherever possible, I'm trying to go back to the 1st edition material for inspiration.

CAVALIER
Cavaliers are the quintessential “knights in shining armor” of the Flanaess. Dedicated to honor, prickly about the deference due to someone of their social standing, they are yet still the product of intense training that makes them among the deadliest warriors in the realm of horse born combat using heavy weapons and armor. No matter their alignment, cavaliers follow a code of chivalry that includes hospitality, honor, courtesy, bravery, and pride. As a rule, cavaliers will wear the heaviest armor available (even if such is not the most efficient, and magical bonuses are not counted), and will seek to attack the most powerful foe available to prove their bravery. Cavaliers never used ranged weapon attacks; such are considered dishonorable. Failure to observe these restrictions may result in forfeiture of half or full experience points and/or renown, at the discretion of the Dungeon Master. Those not in service to some lord, religious cause, or other figure of authority are considered “knights errant” and will have as a primary goal finding service with such a figure. 
Knighthood
When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you automatically gain advantage when using a lance, mace, or flail from horseback. You are also proficient in heavy armor, if you are not already. In addition, you can expect up to three day’s hospitality (food and lodging) from any other fighter with the cavalier archetype, and other characters who would recognize such feudal hospitality obligations as appropriate. You will have a coat of arms which will be flown on a pennant on the cavalier’s lance and/or held by a retainer as a battle flag. If this standard is lost, the cavalier will make every effort to recover it, or suffer a great loss of personal honor. 
Retainers
At 7th level, you will attract a group of retainers like that detailed in the Variant Noble: Knight background in the Player’s Handbook. If you have already chosen that background variant, your retainers will follow you into dungeon environments, once you reach this level, but will still expect to be protected and not put in the forefront of danger. 
Horseman
At 10th level, you always gain advantage when attacking from horseback. In addition, you are an excellent judge of horses in general, and can always pick the horse with the highest number of hit points from a group, when evaluating them (for instance, when picking one out of a herd to buy or ride). You can ride any ordinary mount without effort, and when attempting to ride special mounts (pegasi, hippogriffs, unicorns, etc.) you have advantage. Finally, you have proficiency in animal handling, when it comes to horses and horse-like creatures.
Mastery at arms
At 15th level, you can take an additional action each round to perform a melee attack. If you are wearing heavy armor when making this attack, you get advantage automatically. 
Determination
At 18th level, you are automatically immune to magical fear. In addition, you gain advantage when making saving throw vs. any sort of mind-affecting magic or other effects.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter - Fog Dice Tower for Dice Collectors and Tabletop Gamers

Tenkar's Tavern - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 17:07

The Fog Dice Tower for Dice Collectors and Tabletop Gamers Kickstarter looks good. Not like I need a dice tower that blows fog. But shit, its so damn cool a concept. I don't need it but I want it. And if I want it I want it painted.

Unpainted isn't bad at $49.


I'll see how the finances are as the month goes on. Needs over wants. But hell, this is a pretty want.

Oh, almost missed that if you subscribe to any of a various number of crates - Mythoard and Tenkar's Tavern crate jump to the front, you get a $25 credit to a crate sub. Interesting.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Of to the Con and Middle Earth!

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:10

So around 3pm I will heading from work to Con on the Cob in Richfield (Cleveland) Ohio. There I will hang out with my friends +Tim Shorts and +Chris C.. and get in on some gaming action.


On Saturday at 1 pm,  I will be running a modified version of my Scourge of the Demon Wolf for Adventures in Middle Earth called Scourge of the Werewolf. Because it is a face to face session I can go all out with my Dwarven Forges, props, and minis.




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On a Grim Dawn After a Titan’s Death, Part II

Hack & Slash - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:00
The Dawn of. . .grimness?After Iron Lore and Titan Quest had been put to sleep, lead developer Authur Bruno wasn’t done. He still wanted to keep working on the Action Role-Playing genera.
Because Iron Lore had approached THQ with a working engine, THQ owned all the titan quest intellectual property, along with all the graphics and assets. It turns out however, that Iron Lore still owned the rights to the underling engine.
Obviously there are fans of this type of game. But at the time, late 2007, Torchlight, Path of Exile, and the rumored Diablo 3, all stood on the horizon. What’s a small time developer to do?
Kickstarter
Over 12,000 people and half a million dollars later, there was a budget to finish the game. And the work stands as an ode to what Titan Questwasn’t. Now, when you swung your weapon at enemies, they visibly reacted, flying into the air or gibing when killed, sprays of blood arcing across the screen. They might have gone a bit overboard after all the restrictions from THQ.
It also positioned itself in the market, catering to what the other Action RPG’s didn’t. There was no competitive multiplayer. No streamlined simple builds for causal players. No endlessly running maps. There was just this impossibly large, single player, traditional three-difficulty, action RPG, with 15 different class combinations (28 after the expansion), and hundreds of different builds and options.
Then, the game went into early access on Steam, late in 2013. And although Grim Dawn has been out of early access since February of 2016, early access defines the way this game was made.
Grim Dawn
What is it about Grim Dawn? How is it so different from everything that came before?
The essential truth about it is that Grim Dawn isn’t about money. It’s a small team with expertise, doing a small do it yourself project, that is a thing they want to see in the world. If they wanted money, they wouldn’t be pouring their skills into this project. They would be selling their substantial technical skills to the highest bidder. 

Since early access and after release, every few weeks, there is an update. The updates constantly pour new free content in the game. They contain quality of life increases. They adjust things for better balance. In large part, they do this, because the employees at Crate love their game and are playing it. These are additions they make because they want to see them. This constant nearly decade long stream of constant development isn’t a thing that will last forever, but it is an amazing thing to be part of this process for as long as it lasts.
Secrets
Grim Dawn is a game for old people. Not a catchy sales pitch, I know, but it is a game designed in the old style, by people who miss the way games used to be. This doesn’t just mean that the game systems are complex, or that the game doesn’t hold your hand, or that the game has 80’s references. It’s more than that. Grim Dawn is an old game, built on a solid foundation and worked and worked into a masterpiece of what was. No global multiplayer. Local multiplayer. Personal servers. And secrets.
Lots and lots of secrets.
Speed runs of the Veteran Difficulty take somewhere around 40 minutes. A non-glitched run can be done in under a few hours. A significant and substantial part of the game involves hidden content. There’s a whole zone with a shrine and a golden chest behind a secret wall in an underground hive. There are dozens of zones with no integration to the main quest, but that provide useful and unique rewards. There are at least three completely hidden secret quest lines, two of which can only be completed on the ultimate difficulty. Finally, depending on which factions you choose, certain areas only become available after you’ve reached maximum reputation with the faction.
One update included the “Path of the Witch Gods”, 4 bosses, a secret mega-boss hidden within a secret area, a new dungeon, and a bonus skill point, and four areas completely hidden within the main game, with hardly any information on how to even begin the quest.
Complexity
Arthur has an extended post on the Grim Dawn forums where he talks about his design philosophy.
In his own words: “I think we’re probably unique . . . While most studios are redesigning their games to be more casual-player friendly, we’re busy making Grim Dawn more complex and probably casual-player hostile.
An example of this are the number of overlaying systems within Grim Dawn. On top of picking some combination of two classes and gear, there’s a separate overlaying devotion system. As you restore shrines around the world, you get a pool of up to 55 points that allow you to select benefits from constellations. Running a critical build? Work up to Unknown Solider and have a shadow double run around and attack things critically. Do you like being defensive? If you use a shield, get the obelisk and turn into living stone when you get hit. Any of these are available no matter what your base classes are, giving you entirely new options for character development.
He continues, “I think older, traditional PC games had a certain magic that has been lost in most modern games. . . Publishers and developers are increasingly looking to boost their sales by attracting more of the casual market and increase their revenue by getting this larger audience to make a lot of small purchases. . . We’ve come a long way from my childhood, where failure in most games caused you to start completely over from the beginning, to a point where it is impossible to fail in many games and in some you can just pull out your credit card when you decide it is time to win.
The sad reality though, is that this isn’t some evil corporate executives have perpetrated upon humanity, it’s what people want. At least, some people. Well, as it stands, it appears to be quite a lot of people and that is why the industry and gaming is largely trending in this direction. This is all anathema to what I love about games and is much of the reason that I’ve forgone earning an income the past couple years and instead slave away, with a few other dedicated souls, to create a game that we hope will embody some of what we loved about the games of yesteryear.
Which is why I say, Grim Dawn is a game for old people. No seasons to keep up with. Pause and quit anytime. You are able to play and make progress in short bursts. You can play with people you know or your family, without worrying about lag or online competition. It’s huge and complicated and there’s always something new or interesting to find or do. You buy the game once and never pay again. If you want more, there are expansion packs to buy with more content. All things done in the old style.
GameplayWhen other games in the genera are long dead, Grim Dawn will remain. It is a monument. Not because of the updates. But because of the systems, gameplay design and refinement.
All the systems in the game are designed with the end-user experience in mind. For example, the reputation system. Each faction, both friendly and hostile, tracks your relationship. Rather then this being a grindy annoyance, it’s well designed. Friendly factions, once you reach your maximum reputation, offer a scroll that gives a 100% to faction relationships to any character that reads it. So while your first time you have to put in the work to reach revered with a faction, subsequent characters can do the same though just regularly playing the game.
This also provided them with the opportunity to create rewards for your actions in game. the more you slaughter a faction, the more the faction hates you. The more they hate you, the more heroes they spawn. The more heroes that spawn, the better loot you get.
The level system is another example. The recently released Ashes of Malmouth expansion raised the level cap to 100. Doesn’t that sound grindy? Only, once you get a good relationship with the Malmouth factions, you get access to a potion that grants 100% bonus experience. Now you can level up even faster, if you want to.
That’s another thing that’s nice about Grim Dawn. There is no endgame. There’s no rushing through the leveling process, because although you can farm, after you finish the game on ultimate, the game is basically done for that character. It’s time to try a new build and take on the challenges again. The endgame is the game.
That’s really the core of the game play design. The way the game is structured, is it’s always most rewarding to actually play the fun part of the game, rather then farm or grind. Moving forward means new shrines, new one-time chests, new quest rewards. You’re never encouraged to just farm and farm and farm. All systems are most efficiently maximized by simply exploring and playing the game. 
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In case you forgot: BUNDLE OF HOLDING OSR+5

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 12:25
The Bundle of Holding Old School Revival +5 (including all the fine products you see above like the Mortzengersturm digital edition) is still for 10 more days as of this writing. So you haven't missed out yet, but don't wait!

Also, the boys at DIY Games have extended an extra offer: Just send Mike Evans a receipt showing the purchase and he'll give you a discount on the print on demand version of Gathox. How cool is that?

OSR Commentary On The Orc Raids Of B11 King's Festival By Carl Sargeant For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 06:29
"Someone has "borrowed" a cleric, and without him, the fabled King's Festival cannot go on. Unfortunately, it looks like the orcs have him, and your characters must rescue him. "So I've been playing around with & looking over lots & lots of B/X  & Advanced  Dungeons & Dragons adventures over the last six to eight months. Now let's dive into the deeper B/X pool with an adventure that Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
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