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OSR Commentary On The Classic TSR Era Expert Dungeons & Dragons Book By David Cook

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 06:01
Tegel Manor event went down well on Saturday with all of the players happy & their role playing advancing the adventure's thread. They wove around the adventure & interacted with a good number of NPC's from Tegel village. But I was thinking about the Expert Dungeons & Dragons rule book later that night. So what's so important about the Expert rules? Well for the dungeon master this is the Needles
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Cryptozoic, Funimation, and Quidd Partner to Bring Digital Collectibles to Anime Fans Worldwide

Cryptozoic - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment, Funimation, and Quidd today announced a wide-ranging partnership to create digital collectibles for an array of properties, including Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, My Hero Academia, Full Metal Panic, and Hellsing. These and other titles from Funimation's catalog will be making their way to Quidd, the leading platform for digital goods, which is available on iOS and Android (LINK). 

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Two Towns

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 11:00
These settlements go in this world, but certainly could be placed elsewhere.

Tuskinth: A village whose primary industry is nonnig husbandry. it specializes in the so-called healing breed of furry nonnig, whose purring and warmth is said to have a calming influence on the nerves which aids in healing, and of course, nonnig of any breed are highly nutritious and flavorful. The nonnig yards are composed of hill-mounds surrounded by small moats (the nonnigs avoid water). The nonnig breeders can be recognized by the mail gauntlets they wear on their left hands, to protect themselves from the sting of the mound wyrms that form a symbiotic relationship with the nonnigs and protect them from predation with the warrens. Some nonnig breeders may keep small mounds of scintilla-sniffers on the side, but the practical folk of Tuskinth look down upon treasure-seekers.

Harfo and Sons is the most prosperous of the breeders, though many in Tuskinth would opine that only the old man, Grenz Harfo has any particular head for nonnig-breeding. His eldest son, Halx, is a handsome dullard, and his youngest. Festeu, is a idler and wastrel. Of note, he does own a rare (outside of the Daor Obdurate) telesthetic hound. The poor beast is quite mad, made so by an over-sensitivity to human anxieties resulting from over-breeding. Its shrew-like snout is has a-quiver and dripping, and it's whip-like tail sways nervously.

Horbizond: Was the name of an ancient city, and also the current modest village that squats in a meager portion of it. The people of Horbizond dress in the decaying finery of the ancients and appoint their over-sized but crumbling homes in an equally ostentatious fashion. They live in holy dread of the Prismatic Man, an angular, crystalline visitant, who materializes at random intervals to isolated folk of the town. The actions of the Prismatic Man are various and strange. He has at times pointed with a glassy finger to hidden treasures. Other times, he has emitted a chiming that the hear perceived as some spiritual wisdom. Then there are the occasions when he has seemed to produce rays of color from his palms that struck an individual dead. If there is any rationale to whom the Prismatic Man favors and whom he destroys, the folk of Horbizond have yet to discern it. In fact, they believe it would be blasphemous to do so. The Hwaopt Library is willing to pay for detailed observations of the Prismatic Man, whose nature and purpose they are eager to discover.

Ch. 5, Page 19

Castle Greyhawk - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 04:30
Quij had seen Robilar levitate plenty of times, but being able to fly himself was a brand new experience to the orc hero. He pushed off into the air like he was pushing off from the shore into a river and tried to "swim" through the air.

Otto made his way inside. Combating the invisible stalker with bags of flour seemed like such a natural idea, he could not think why it had not occurred to him earlier. He made to the innkeeper with lightning precision and made his demands.

Tenser, meanwhile, was eager to reach the spellbooks and scrolls in his room upstairs. He could think of a half-dozen spells that would help with the stalker -- all of which he had, by chance, failed to prepare that day. He had no time to prepare new spells, but if he could just find the right scroll...

But then, Endelar started to resist his tugging hand. In the middle of the common room, she decided she had had enough.

Actual Play - The Spawn - Part 1

19th Level - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 01:58
Based on the adventure of the same name by Harry Cleaver, contained in the Chaosium anthology The Great Old Ones.

Boston, Mass. to Coppertown, New Mexico. June 20 - June 26, 1921


  • Jordaine Furst - Strasbourg-born Great War spy for France
  • Liam Maguire - Former Boston police officer turned private investigator after the 1919 strike
  • Dora Martin - Journalist determined to understand the truth

At Fredrick Tardiff's art studio in Boston some new investigators had gathered. Dora Martin had reported on the Crimson Gang and had determined there was more to it than the official story So had former police officer Liam Maguire.
Dora had received a letter from a former colleague of hers, a labor organizer and general rabble rouser, José Green.

Prior to leaving they did some research on the mines:

  • The Beasley Mining Co.
  • Offices: 28 Main Street, Coppertown, New Mexico.
  • Officers: President William Beasley, V.P. Edward Beasley.
  • Incorporated: May 19, 1912 in New Mexico.
  • Capital:about $5 million (no shares).
  • Property: 20 unpatented claims and 1 mill site, about 560 acres of land on the N. side of Devil’s Mountain, 5 miles from Coppertown, New Mexico.
  • Development: main developments are two claims, Broad Vein and the Copper Lady, both incline shafts cut into porphyry copper deposits

Taking the train to small town they arrived on the evening of Saturday, June 25. They checked into La Casa Royale, a hotel run by local Mexican-Americans. They ate at the nearby Silver Spur. There they made the acquaintance of the young Professor Tyler A. Freeborn who told them fascinating stories of how the local Indians had abandoned their mountain dwellings around 1300 A/D/ and settled in flat river valleys. He'd broken his arm finding a strange temple in the mountain dwellings and was eager to return.

They also met with José Green who talked of the strangeness - how the Copper Lady mine was far more productive through mined by lower paid Mexican and Mexican-American workers - whereas the primarily white-worked Broad Vein was paid much more but produced far less. The workers there were happier though - and better paid. The better pay was not unusual given they were white but the fact that they were paid so very high was - as was the happiness, despite the unusual number of fatalities, even in dangerous work like mining. The bosses had refused help from the Copper Lady miners in rescuing Thornton and some of his fellow miners from a cave-in in Broad Vein. He never had a chance to see the bodies.

Given the next day was Sunday, very early in the morning they snuck into the Broad Vein mine to check it out, entering through an air shaft on the side. They worked their way past the cave-in and going further down they found... a sacrificial chamber, with a smooth tunnel leading from it. Exploring it they went deep into the mountain. After over an hour of travel they decided to turn back - only to discover a tentacled horror following them. Opening fire their guns did minimal effect and they ran - deeper into the mountain. They eventually passed a curtain or blanket and entered... a torture chamber... Breaking down the door they found a staircase leading to the Beasley Mansion...

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Kasimir Urbanski and Appendix N on Geek Gab!

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sun, 07/29/2018 - 20:18

Okay, it finally happened. Kasimir Urbanski and I have finally had a big sit down on the topic of Appendix N. Note that we did not have a formal debate; rather, this was more just a friendly conversation on the subject. Anyone that has followed Urbanski’s blog posts and Google+ threads on this topic will, I think, be very surprised by the results here. Yeah, the usual straw man arguments do make a cameo appearance, but it is relatively brief. And for the record, below are my notes for the key points I wanted to have covered during the exchange.

Listen to the whole show and decide for yourself how well they got argued!

What is Appendix N?

** It is more or less a significant subset of the fantasy and science fiction canon– and consistent with what the typical fantasy fan of the seventies understood about the genre.

Does it shed light on why classic editions of Dungeons & Dragons are the way that they are?

** Yes…. See also Ken St. Andre’s Tunnels & Trolls, Marc Miller’s Traveller and James Ward’s Metamorphosis Alpha. All of them leveraged a synthesis of weird books in order to get off the ground. All of them took no thought of slinging elements from contradictory stories and series together into one great game of “play anything from any book you like– as a player or a dungeon master!”

Does it have any utility for game masters that are running fantasy campaigns of their own?

** If you struggle with imagining worlds where alignment, spell memorization, and mega-dungeons are “real”, then you are going to get a real kick out of seeing these things in their original contexts. Contrarwise, if you assume that The Lord of the Rings is the starting point for how fantasy even works, you are going to inevitably be frustrated by how classic D&D is implemented and how it plays. Further, a person that thinks only in terms of derivative eighties style fantasy will be tempted to sacrifice player autonomy in order to produce the sort of “epic” story arcs that you take for granted as being the entire point of the fantasy genre.

Are some types of fantasy a better fit for classic D&D than others?

** You’re going to have far less friction adapting situations from Burroughs, Leiber, Howard, and Vance to D&D than you are trying to make it fit with Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. Just as one major example: the need for backgrounds and motivations is simply absent from pulp stories in general. This is the first thing that is added to movie adaptations of Conan and Solomon Cane, but it’s pretty well absent from the source material. It’s not an accident there’s no space for “background” on you Moldvay Basic character sheet!

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Bloody Invaders & Unexpected Guests - Tegel Manor Actual Play Session I

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 07/28/2018 - 17:26
"Traveling through the Other World the lost valley sea coast the  of accursed manor makes it way to unknown destinations. Our heroes have made their own way into Tegel village settled into a local flop house. The sky around the valley burns with demon stars as the PC's plot their next move! Death will take the first man or woman who hesitates! The demon haunted manor beckons them back Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Today’s Forecast: A “Definitive End” to Appendix N Discussion!

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 07/28/2018 - 15:47

Pop the popcorn, y’all! This is going to be good!

Cognitive dissonance, thy name is Urbanski. You probably don’t have the balls to appear someplace where your presence is inappropriate anyway. (h/t Neal Durando!)

It is absolutely baffling to me why the topic of Appendix N is just so triggering to certain people.  It’s been asked before: “why does the idea that Gygax got specific ideas for D&D from specific sources, and that these can be identified, seem to offend some people? Are they invested in the idea that it was all original for some reason?”

Good questions! Maybe we’ll get some answers today on Geek Gab.

And just for the record… before we go onto the show, here are my questions for the RPG Pundit:

  • What is Appendix N?
  • Does it shed light on why classic editions of Dungeons & Dragons are the way that they are?
  • Does it have any utility for game masters that are running fantasy campaigns of their own?
  • Are some types of fantasy a better fit for classic D&D than others?

Seems like pretty tame stuff to me. It doesn’t have to be so difficult to have a conversation about this. But for some reason, it just is.

Don’t miss it! We should be live in a couple of hours here…!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gygax's "Dungeon Delving" Playtest Reports

Zenopus Archives - Sat, 07/28/2018 - 12:34
The map for Pane 8 "Red (Rose)" of the Hall of Many Panes
Here's a post to celebrate Gary Gygax's birthday, which was yesterday --- he would have been 80 this year. 

Last December I wrote about Gary's "Dungeon Delving" map from his lengthy 2005 module the Hall of Many Panes, written for his Lejendary Adventures system. In that post I looked at how it shared many features with his dungeon level designs from the 1970s. As a follow-up here I collect his reports from when he was play-testing this level with his home group, sixteen years ago in the summer of 2002.

These posts were all made on his gygax-games mailing list, one of the many online groups/forums that he frequented in the last decade of his life. The list ended up as a yahoo group and are still available here in a super-clunky archive that I assume could disappear at any time if yahoo goes under. They are precious few actual play reports from Gygax himself, so I think it is important to preserve these.

I've extracted the play reports from the above messages, removing some of the out-of-game info, although you can follow the links to find the full posts. I also corrected obvious spelling mistakes and typos where I noted them. I've also annotated where each room is located on the published map so you can follow along with the group's progress. To do this, it will probably help to open two browser windows, one with the narrative, one with the map.

The starting characters, per Gary's descriptions ---
Artimus the Rogue
Chahlor the Dwarf
Deogolf the Mage
Xagnar the Renowned (elsewhere described as a roguish hero)
Otto the Forester
Lovie the Veshoge (NPC run by Gary)
Longer descriptions of these characters can be found in the published Hall of Many Panes module, as well as in this 2007 EnWorld post by Gygax.

The Playtest Reports ---

6 June LA Game Session Message 5750, posted 6/8/02
"...After a quick R&R session, they then went on, tapped a hexagonal pane of red, and... DUNGEON CRAWL TIME!  That's right, fans, they are now in a "dungeon as of the days of yore," and they must needs find the long and arduous means of escaping.

The initial octagonal chamber, the center of which they arrived in has [nine] marble statues in it [Room 1, START]. They left the center so as to see the front sides of these figures--all ordinary sorts, from a noblewoman to a goose girl. Heading for an exit, they had stones dropped from the gloomy heights above my several angry male mandreagles. They left by one of the four exit doors, found another chamber, left there and went through several corridors, and are now in a small room in which there is a self-proclaimed "wishing well" [Room 29]." 

LA Game Campaign Session: 13 June Message 5764, posted 6/14/02

"...So with Artimus the team searched the room they were in with some care, but did not venture down the 6-foot diameter, 20-foot deep shaft with water at the bottom. After expending only a couple of gold pieces ($500) each, and one golden beryl worth a cool $5,000, the heroes departed the Wishing Well room as not likely to prove useful to their immediate mission--getting out of the stinking dungeon!

Led by the doughty Otto, the party soon came to another door in the maze of passages and chambers they have barely begun to explore. An armored warrior with a great mastiff greeted them, inviting them in if they were "no friends of vile cats" [Room 7]. After sharing wine with him they were about to set off for a pub somewhere on the level, a place owned according to the warrior by "Bobo and Bruno." Lovie attacked the chap when his back was turned.

Although she missed, she had used her Psychogenic Mind Reading Power to discover the fellow was a werebeast about to attack the party. It turned out the dog was also one, and in a fast and furious fight, the pair were laid low. Fortunately (from the players' standpoint only, I assure you), only one of the group failed to avoid being slowed and made 50% less effective that normal from the drugged wine that drank. Robbing the dead, the team took a bottle of the drugged wine, seven gold coins, and a considerable number of magical fungi they found hidden in the victims' small room. Chahlor the dwarf went so far as to take a necklace from the warrior-werebeast's neck, a chain from which depends a red disk. He now sports it as a trophy.

Delving further east and south, then heading west, they encountered a chameleon slime masquerading as a ceramic pot of water [Room 8], took some rather severe acid Harm to person and armor, but... Otto had brought along many pound of bicarbonate of soda. Continuing acid damage was ended, and with that and some Power activation, the poor slime was cruelly murdered for merely following its instinctive drive, its need for nourishment...

The savage marauders then entered a hall in which a figure on a leather chair of throne-like sort demanded they come close so they could speak [Room 9]. The callow adventurers did not, discovered it was a leather golem, and began to destroy yet another inhabitant of the place into whose presence that had come unbidden. Sadder still, the golem's associate, a mad ulf savant, was unable to turn any of the raiders to stone, then fell prone when caught in a Sticky Power effect that was cast by the merciless Deogolf. Chahlor then used an unchivalrous wand Power, Eggary's Extreme Smiting, to nearly slay the unhappy and unbalanced ulf--a figure no court in this land would hold responsible for his actions of self-defense, the protection of his golem included.

Just as the much-abused ulf arose and was moving to strike a mighty blow at the intruders, he again fell prone in the sticky area... Yours truly was greatly dejected. The party was much pleased, nay, overjoyed, at that. So they struck the coup de grace without compunction..."

HOMP, Thursday 20 June Adventure Session Message 5857, posted 6/21/02

"...Initially discovered on the ulf were some way-too-big dockalven composite armor and a heavy cutting sword which were unceremoniously loaded onto Otto, all quite untested. A very thorough search and looting followed. $1,700 in silver service pieces was insufficient, so the party kept up their depredations, found a secret cache under the stone chain in which the golem had sat. Therein 90 gold coins ($45K), and $50K each in loose gems & crystals, and gold jewelry were discovered and looted. Still unsatisfied, the rapacious band then examined a large pool in an alcove. Artimus nearly died when his hand contacted a small but highly poisonous little fish therein. Much consultation, several more near-fatal stings, and then more consultation and various attempts to rid the water of the camouflaged and well-hidden piceans followed. When asked, Lovie used her Psychogenic Ability Apport & Teleport Power to empty the pool of water. A tedious hunting for and slaughter of some 100 small fish was next. Then came a careful hands-on examination of the pebbled bottom of the pool. This discovered many plaques, a memory tablet, and a Hand of Destruction (copper) with 9 topaz crystal rounds--this Lovie demanded and received.

Leaving the thoroughly-trashed chamber, the team set off to discover more hapless victims. Instead what followed was a refreshing tour of the many maze-like passages of the level:) The number of encounters seemingly bypassed on purpose was a delight to the LM's heart. That two sheets of mapping paper, on both sides, were needed to attempt to chart the path followed--that actually quite unsuccessfully--was even more heartening, as much as their being within about 50 feet of "Bobo's & Bruno's Pub" and missing it [Room 21].

They did discover an arrow trap that did some Harm:)

After several game hours of wandering hither and yon thus, they came to a small chamber with the mixed stench of rotting and ozone pervading the place [Room 15]. As they were reading for something, that something came to them. A rather large shock wyrm emerged, delivered considerable lightning Harm to four of the heroes... Otto ran away having suffered 40 Harm. Chahlor took double Harm of 38, plus half that delivered to his clone (20), so he was in some distress too. Unfortunately two armor-bypassing blows, one from Chahlor, the other from Xagnar, slaughtered the justly self-defending wyrm. Had Lovie been able to strike ahead of Xagnar, her deadly sword thrust (01) would have done for the poor brute.

Some gold coins were discovered in a side passage from which the wyrm had emerged [Room 15A]. At the end of that way was a shaft plunging many hundreds of feet down to where it is likely the wyrm laired as 'home." Another long discussion followed as to whether or not, and how, they might explore that lower cavity. Xagnar was all for pushing Chahlor's clone into the shaft. After much ado, the party left. Too bad, as the wyrm's parents, too large for the shaft, were waiting expectantly for manna from above...

Heading east along a long passage, Chahlor was evidently feeling unclean, so he went for a deep duck into a 10-foot pool of water the denizens of the dungeon use for drinking.

Thereafter a detour south brought the band of marauders into a place where heavy, spear-headed iron bars crashed down to trap them in a 10' x 30' area ["C" near bottom edge]. Regrettably, the party was in need of rest, so they settled down there assuming that iron bars provide them with relatively safety in their "retreat." It is the LM's duty to disabuse them!"

27 June LA Game Campaign--more Dungeon Crawling Message 5938, posted 7/1/02

"Having left the bold band "overnighting" in a cage trap, there was considerable surprise when a new face was amongst the party when they awoke, that belonging to Vendar:
Vendar, a stout soldier who grew up in the hamlet of Burrflint, which is little more than a wide spot near the intersection of two major roads.  He worked in his parents’ tavern serving customer and stabling horses.  He yearned for adventure and travel and would listen to all of the stories, no matter how outrageous, that the travelers told when they were enjoying a mug of his father’s fine ale. When he was 15 years old he ran away from his parents and enlisted in a free company of mercenaries. Finding that much routine duty and little excitement was to be had in a mercenary band, Vendar left to find more exciting employment as a soldier of fortune, came across a strange fellow who offered him the adventure of a lifetime, and in accepting the challenge found himself in a closed mini-cosmos with a party of would-be heroes seeking to find and free a captive demi-god ... 
The "strange fellow" in this case looked like a dwarf-sized leprechaun, called himself "The Mors."

While the iron grate could be lifted a bit, lacking any levers the party decided to try another tact. Deogolf used an enchantment, and the whole group passed through the stone easily, were on their way.

There was much wandering through long and maze-like passages, for by this time the adventurers realized they had been subjected to some form of magical transportation in this dungeon. After working around an open pit in the floor, then long exploring, they were surprised by a pair of bale wretches--twice! [Room 25] Finally cutting off the vile living dead things' heads, the team took what was there in the coffins, and an indigo square pendant on a necklace lying on an altar.

Next they came to a fortress-like room where an ancient and reclusive savant of some sort dwells [Room 28]. He answered a number of questions for the group, then as they became somewhat threatening, disappeared. They left his abode undisturbed, went back to exploring, and eventually discovered a bathing pool in which Chahlor and Lovie took a dip together (ever wonder what dwarf-veshoge sprats would look like?) [Room "From 18"].

Noted there was: There are 12 large towels stacked in a corner, written on the wall by them, with a narrow slit in the stone below the writing is: “$500 per bather, towel included. Deposit coins in slot.” Lovie, first in, discovered a necklace with a square blue pendant, and she now wears it. Chahlor and Lovie need to decide if they will pay the outrageous bathing and town fee now...

Leaving the pool area, the party entered a chamber in which many bones and skeletons were strewn against the far wall [Room 23]. Watching those remains with eagle eye, the "harpooner" (domlithican) on the ceiling above managed to spear two of the group and knock them out with its poison. Fortunately for all, heavy armor and excellent weapons use enabled the others to free Deogolf and Vendar before they were drawn up for consumption. After some further attacks, the monster was laid low."

Thur. 11 July LA game Campaign Session Message 6136, posted 7/12/02

"...After some considerable time spent attempting to discover just where they were in the dungeon, Chahlor assumed the task of mapping, and Xagnar conceived of carving numbers into various doors to see if they were being transported hither and yon as they suspected. Through much effort, they discovered they were indeed being magically moved, were unable to connect explored and mapped portions of the level, but gained much the expense of any encounters of active sort. The party did get an exceptional amount of exercise walking the length and breadth of the level, only to backtrack in both cases.

The team did discover a covered pit trap, with spikes, Chahlor leaping back in time but Otto plunging in, missing even the one spike that seemed certain to skewer him, and coming out with mere bruises and contusions. They then discovered a cage trap, worked a lever, suffered some minot harm from arrows released, but escaped the cage ["C" in NW].

Nearing exhaustion the party then came upon a large hall in which there were eight brass pillars [Room 24]. In its foyer there was a pool of corroded copper. Vendar discovered when he investigated it that it contained a most hungry and aggressive flowing slime. An activation, a lucky cut from Chahlor too, ended its assault, although Vendar and his armor alike suffered some considerable Harm from its acid.

Upon stepping into the hall, they found all save the floor of white marble was of polished brass. 18 torches flared into light as if by magic, and later on Chahlor attempting to grab one to use as a stick weapon discovered they spat out gouts of flame at anyone too near... The Avatars saw three great urns of brass before the inner faces of the far columns, and before them a great magic circle inlaid in brass in the floor. Avoiding the latter, Xagnar lifted the lid of the first urn. Presto! It was a brass golem, and it smote lustily upon the unsuspecting fellow.

He fled with the golem in pursuit, and soon Chahlor and Deogolf shattered the construct with their Powers. Another jar was struck by Chahlor's activation, it becoming a brass golem with four arms, but again meeting destruction from Extraordinary energy. The same thing happened with the third brass urn, it transforming into a six-armed golem that was all-too-quickly blasted to bits.

In the ruins of the first golem Xagnar discovered a miniature golem with command words upon it. Artimus succeeded in convincing Xagnar that he should bestow the figurine unto him, much to Alex's chagrin. The remains of the second golem produced a figurine of an oni imp with command words, it being taken up by Vendar.

As Chahlor picked up a necklace with an orange pendant of hexagonal shape and a brass bound tome, the latter smoked, incandesced, burst into flames from which appeared a most irate oni. It smote Chahlor soundly. Five of the Avatars smote back, but only Chahlor, Xagnar, and Deogolf's enchantments were of effect. Eventually it came down to three persons fighting it, all save Deogolf at a distance, rather badly wounded. As the demon used an energy coil to harm and paralyze Chahlor, Xagnar and Deogolf finished the oni."

LA Campaign Session 18 July Message 6422, posted 7/20/02

"...After the party rested and did some healing in the hall of brass, they exited and all-too-soon discovered a nearby room was one in which they had encountered and expunged a pair of bale wretches [Room 25]. That discovery, of course, enabled them to put several map sections into their proper order. There was much grumbling and lamentation from the LM at that point.

Thus intelligenced, the team began exploration so as to improve their dungeon map, and even a wandering blindsnake had no effect on that determined, if slow, effort.

They marched east and west, north and south, so as to get the lay of the land, so to speak. Although this exercise bypassed many interesting things, they did discover a chamber with a large iron chest--and the four flatadders dwelling in the area [Room 12]. Being surprised by them, considerable venom went into the team before the snakes were cruelly slaughtered. Lovie the Veshoge was struck twice and her Health was in single digits. Healing was again in order, as was an exploration break of 12 hours game time whilst adventurers slept, regained AEPs.

Thereafter Chahlor, leading the way and mapping, the Avatars continued on. Suddenly the dwarf disappeared from sight, leaving only the lingering echoes of a shriek of surprise. A huge kru-krad ape had snatched him up from where it lurked in the rafters of the newly entered space [Room 11]. Thumped soundly, Chahlor was cast down, but managed to avoid being stunned. Thus he and several others learned how nasty these creatures are in melee. More healing followed.

In the process of continued mapping, it was next discovered that an area with stairs up [A1] transported them some considerable distance away to the north [A2]. In working their way back southwards again, a secret door was noted by Otto and Lovie. The party followed, found a circular chamber with tools in it [Room 5], then the starting big chamber [Room 1]. As mandreagles tossed down rocks, broke a bright bubble thus, Xagnar was elected to use his bracers of brachiation to clear them from the place. This he did with effect, killing eight males and 16 females of the vicious creatures, the few survivors then fleeing the place in haste.

Much laden with tools, armor and arms taken from various encounters, the party settled down in the great hexagonal chamber for a breather while they decided what they should do with their excess baggage. The LM vociferously urged the use of the hand cart left in the circular chamber in which the tools were discovered, but Xagnar kept warning of the encumbrance and noise associated with such a vehicle."

LA Campaign Adventure Session 26 July Message 6533, posted 7/26/02

"...Much of the time was spent in moving about in the dungeon, checking the path followed against the map, and making corrections to that work. In actual fact, the pile of partial maps was reduced to only a couple, as the main one was corrected and expanded. This was enabled by the marking of dungeon doors with numbers and very careful exploration.

...After eating, healing, resting, recovering AEPs, there was consideration of taking a hand cart from a nearby chamber so as to be able to carry all the shields, armor, and weapons the party had collected. When it became clear that the vehicle was noisy, slow, and would attract attention, that plan was abandoned--along with the shields, armor, and arms--those being piled up in the room.

Leaving the big octagonal chamber that had been the happy home for many mandreagles before their slaughter, the team exited using the same path as their original departure. thereafter in more thoroughly exploring the area there, they discovered a pair of feline werebeasts masquerading as a human female and her black lion guardian animal [Room 6]. Chahlor signaled Lovie to use her Psychogenic Ability to check on the pair, but this was spotted by the werebeasts. As the random die rolls indicated Chahlor and Kahlar [described as a doppleganger of Chahlor] were attacked, it was apparent that the werebeasts considered the dwarfs as the leaders of the party. The pair struck, the black lion overbearing Kahlar, mauling him savagely, and keeping the doppleganger out of action, while the one in human form beat soundly on the actual Avatar, Chahlor, and then others. Of course that left plenty of others to beat back, and in sort order the two werebeasts were cut to pieces. Finding a necklace, valuables, and four boli of health, robustus, three of moderatus sort, the team left there.

Following that action the main exploration operation began. Noting landmark areas and door numbers, the party moved through long stretches of the subterranean labyrinth, revisited the healing pool where a mere $500 (one-ounce gold coin) enables healing (13-16), AEP restoration (9-12) and the use of a towel to dry off:) [Room "From 18"]

During this lengthy trekking, avoiding assiduously areas suspected to transport the party, there were two relatively bright spots--the triggering of an arrow trap, and that of a previously-visited covered pit with spikes set in its bottom. As in the initial mishap, Chahlor and Otto were leading the way, the dwarf avoiding falling in, Otto plummeting down. This time not only did the Forester miss falling on the one spike that might have penetrated, his fall broke it! The only consolation was the 13 points of shock Harm from the fall, this bypassing any and all protection, of course.

Having thus established the eastern boundaries of the level, the party began a systematic exploration of the blank map areas there in the northeastern portion. By so doing they stumbled upon and were totally surprised by an url [Room 26]. That worthy pitched two rocks, just making his hitting chance with rolls of 85 and 84, delivering excellent Harm thereby. He then grabbed his huge flail and smacked full four of the intruding Avatars smartly. Sadly, he missed his next two attack rolls, and the team did for the url thus. As they were gloating over their triumph, two more rocks flew into the group. Both would have hit, but alas Xagnar has an Extraordinary protection that lowers initial attack success by 50%, so he was missed. Vendar, already wounded, fell with health of -5 from the stone that struck him. The dwarf had available a magical stone, however, that restored full 60 Health points to his fallen comrade, so that attack was not fatal after all.

Two trolls that served the url came into the fray from their southern quarters [Room 27] and fought valiantly but hopelessly. They too were cut down, after delivering some stout blows to their opponents--Kahlar (then replaced by Chahlor) and Xagnar.

Loot from this wanton killing amounted to some fair amount of coin two, necklaces and five amber ammunition crystals for Lovie's hand of destruction.

Feeling relatively safe in the lairs of such fell creatures, the battered Avatars settled down to refresh themselves with food, pillaged ale, rest and sleep."

HOMP Campaign Session 15 August Message 6769, posted 8/16/02

"...The team had stopped for a rest period in the "baseball-home-plate-shaped" temple chamber with decorations and three deital-figure statues of Egyptian like sort [Room 19]. There play commenced. After leaving two gold coins in each of the three offertory dishes on the altars, and one $5,000 topaz before the figure that resembles Osiris, the team went on.

The puzzled LM wondered why no prayers and requests for anything accompanied the offerings, but such is life.

After the party left, the offerings were magically transferred into the "Fund for the restoration of communications between deities and mankind."

Mapping continued, as the wretched dwarf cartographer further developed and completed the means by which the team could access all portions of the dungeon level with easy and know their exact location. Bah!

By searching the blank areas, the party soon came upon a heretofore undiscovered side chamber from the starting octagonal one, picking up there a lantern and jug of lamp oil (kerosene) [Room 4]. Going back, they then found a small chamber in which a "jolly and kindly priest (necromancer) dwelled [Room 17]. As they broke bread with him he summoned his 60 blackrat friends, activated Bone Splinters Power too, dreaming he had a chance of inflicting some severe damage upon the namby-pamby adventurers. As he was about to follow up with a Reaper's Scythe Power attack, Chahlor used his want to nearly kill the fellow with an Eggary's Extreme Smiting. That blew the necrourge's activation, and in the following ABC he was slain while attempting to escape through a secret door. Much loot was taken, but there was no sign of a necklace and pendant.

Searching on seeking the two missing keys to their escape from the labyrinth, and now fully able to move around with relative surety, the party next came into a rectangular chamber with nine murals painted on its walls [Room 18]. Ignoring some very interesting pictures, Chahlor touched one with a buxom maid offering a tankard of ale, was sent instantly to the Ogre Brothers Pub [Room 21], and the rest followed. After a "day" of boozing and loafing, and a night of rest there in the best bedroom, the bold band went back to exploring.

Sadly, their map was such that Chahlor was able to lead them directly to a side chamber, a large place that was the residence of a sorcerer, and currently the haunt of that one's spirit, a fright [Room 13]. As they went into the bedchamber portion of the place it manifested itself..."

LA Campaign Game Session 22 August Message 6853, posted 8/24/02
"...the fight with the living dead fright went badly--for the fright. It did gain a lot of P Base Rating points to as to strike frequently in semi-material form, but even with its high protection the team unloaded so much on the critter that it didn't stand a chance. In upshot it managed to drain only one point permanently, when Ottos Avoidance failed and he ran off. (Note to all LMs: Have one fright for every two Avatars, and the latter will be meat on the table!)

With the destruction of the fright, the usual looting frenzy followed, and what was thought to be possibly of value but not immediately identifiable was stashed in the two Commodeous Carryalls the team had taken from the ogresses [Room 22]. Thus laden, and with the eighth necklace, the party went looking for the ancient sage. With Chahlor's map being about 95% correct, this was an easy matter. When he was not in the Ogre Brothers Pub, they simply went to his area [Room 28], knocked, and were admitted.

He asked for the simple meaning of the following:
"In pinetaris; in oaknoneis.
"In mudeelsare; in claynoneis."

Eventually that was stated by Vendar.

Then they got the clue for the location of the eighth necklace, and Chahlor nailed it all too quickly, led the way, managed the opening of the secret door alone, taking the arrows, and thus the last key for escape from the dungeon was gained [Room 14]. Both Vendar and Chahlor received 50 extra General Merits for their efforts.

Back at the octagonal chamber where the adventure began, there was a period of experimentation with the necklaces. Then following the most obvious relationships between each shape and the statues, they got the right order for all eight on the first try! That earned an extra 50 for all the party members, so their Merits were 300 for the session and 300 for exiting.

Much the worse for wear, the party exited through the rose pane that appeared with the proper placement of the necklaces, hastened to the brownies' for R&R, and examined and divided up the extensive loot. Vendar now has a two-handed sword that has a P bonus of 15, harm added of 13-16, all supernatural Extraordinary. Xagnar received Winged Heels boots. The two Commodeous Carryalls remain with Chahlor and Otto. Lovie got some dandy ammunition crystals for the Hand of Destruction, so she can't complain. Deogulf garnered a number of Enchantment Powers on Plaques, so he thus needs now only some Memory Tablets to be well pleased indeed.

Happily, the bold adventurers did not stop by the pub to bid adieu to the ogre brothers..."
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

My first Fantasy Trip Aid also useful for GURPS and Dungeon Fantasy

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 19:11
A long time ago I made a set of customized graph paper to use with GURPS after I purchased the Cardboard Heroes: Dungeon Floors.

As you can see from the image below, SJ Games cleverly squashed the hexes to allow them to align with a rectangular grid. I drew up some graph paper so I can easily draw dungeons for my Majestic Wilderlands when I used GURPS as the rules.

After pledging to the The Fantasy Trip kickstarter I found a copy of In the Labyrinth for a reasonable price on eBay and bought it. In there and in the original Wizard which I also have. The Fantasy Trip has the concept of magahexes, a larger hex encompassing seven small hexes. It is used to adjudicate long ranges, area spells and other effects.

So I pulled out the old file and added a layer with Mega Hex border.

You can download it from here.

It is layered with the border, hexes, megahexes, and grid on separate layers. The advantage of this is that you can draw or transpose dungeon laid out on a grid to use with the hex map format of GURPS or The Fantasy Trip.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Happy Gary Gygax Day & The High Road To The Astral Plane With The Free Adventure ZA6: Journey to the Astral Plane by Joseph Mohr

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 15:32
Today would have been Gary Gygax's eightieth birthday today & we're supposed to celebrate his life. Gary Gygax was a lot of things designer, writer, & to a certain extent he was a Renaissance man. There was a lot of water under the bridge with the history of Dungeons & Dragons. For some folks those events yesterday even if it was forty plus years ago. But someplace along the line I Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

jeremy crawford talks about monster design

Blog of Holding - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 14:59

I’m pretty close to finishing up my monster design guidelines based on reverse-engineering the Monster Manual. Before that, though, I want to comment on an interesting episode of DM’s Deep Dive in which Mike Shea (Sly Flourish) interviewed D&D lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford about monster design.

Mike asked Jeremy about the table in the DMG for homebrewing monsters. It’s public record that I have my doubts about that table. Jeremy provided this interesting fact: apparently, the canonical formula for determining monster CR is encoded in an internally-used Excel spreadsheet. (We’ve seen this spreadsheet in action in the Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour.) The table in the DMG was made after the spreadsheet, and was an attempt to reverse-engineer and simplify the spreadsheet’s formulas for DM’s home use: it’s not used as part of the process for creating for-publication monsters.

My research indicates that while D&D monster stats are internally consistent and carefully designed, their power levels don’t line up well with the DMG chart. This leads me to believe that the spreadsheet does what it intends to do, while the DMG chart does not.

I invite you to ponder this further mystery from the Deep Dive podcast:

In the podcast, Jeremy Crawford talked about how the D&D team approaches what he calls “action denial” attacks: paralysis, charm, etc. This is something I’ve wondered about. My initial research suggested that these attacks didn’t have much of an effect on CR, which I though was strange: taking out a combatant for a few turns seems like it should be a powerful ability.

Jeremy used paralysis as an example to illustrate the team’s approach. First, find the lowest-level spell which inflicts a condition. For paralysis, that’s Hold Person. Next, you translate that into damage by finding the damage output of the simplest pure-damage spell of that level. Hold Person is level 2, and its comparable damage spell is Scorching Ray, which does 6d6 (21) damage. Thus, the ability to paralyze is worth 21 “virtual” damage for Challenge Rating calculation purposes.

I see the logic in that, but it doesn’t scale the way I’d expect it to. If you’re fighting four opponents, I’d expect the ability to keep one of them paralyzed to be worth, say, 33% extra virtual hit points (the hit points you won’t be losing to the paralyzed opponent) – or some similar scaling benefit. If the ability is expressed as flat damage, 21 hit points damage is dominant at low levels and negligible at high levels.

And indeed, when checked against monster data, it doesn’t seem as if monsters are balanced exactly as Jeremy describes. Check out the chart below. This includes all ten CR-5 or lower monsters with a paralysis attack: the carrion crawler, chuul, ghoul, ghast, grell, pentadrone, mummy, revenant, thri-kreen, and yeti. (Above CR 5, the 21 virtual hit points of paralysis would rarely be relevant to CR because monsters generally have a more damaging attack options.)

In this chart, the blue diamonds represent the average damage output of a monster of each CR from 1 to 5. The red X’s represent the base damage output of paralysis-inducing monsters – without the 21-point “Crawford bonus.” As you can see, the paralyzer damage is very close to average monster damage.

The green triangles represent the average damage of paralyzers, once you take the 21 points of “virtual damage” into account. As you can see, adding this would skew monster damage way too high – doubling their effective damage in most cases! If this damage were really being taken into account the way Jeremy describes, all these low-level monsters would have to have very low-damage attacks – a ghoul with a claw doing 1 damage, for instance – to make room for all that virtual damage.

This is one of those unaccountable situations, like many others that we’ve discovered while investigating how monsters are built, where the WOTC instructions for building a monster don’t match the monsters we see in the manual.

My best guess for why this is: playtesting. It’s possible that monster stats started off skewed and exception-ridden. How could they not? It’s an incredibly complicated system. But then through the public D&D Next playtest, the NDA playtest, the internal playtest, and the good intuitions of the designers themselves, the proud nails were hammered down. Monsters were adjusted until they felt right. The tyranny of the spreadsheet was overthrown by humans, or at least reformed into a constitutional monarchy. And so, while the designers of D&D may be still using an occasionally flawed formula to initially prototype their monsters, they’re compensating for the Excel spreadsheet’s failings in later steps of design.

It’s interesting to compare the designers’ intent (as evidenced by what we know of their monster-design process) to the final product (the monsters in the rule books.)

The intent is to account for everything in a monster’s CR. Hundreds of monster traits are weighed to the fraction of a CR. Changing one stat has a ripple effect on other stats. As Jeremy said in the podcast, they’re still using the same Excel spreadsheet that they’ve been using for five years. I’m a programmer and I know what that means. Complication is added to complication, all adding up to the illusion of precision. No one really knows how it works anymore: look how hard it is to reverse engineer (see that DMG table I’ve been complaining about). From this end of the process, monster design has a baroque, stately, creaking majesty.

The final product, when analyzed, is simple, flexible, and streamlined. Challenge Rating gives a broad bell curve of possible hit points and damage outputs. Tweaking one number doesn’t affect another. A monster’s traits and special abilities have no significant, measurable effect on its Challenge Rating: every monster gets its schtick and they all sort of balance out. From this end, monster design appears to have a flexible, easygoing, organic solidity.

This is a common pattern in tabletop game design. Things start complicated. The more they’re used at the table, the simpler they become. I think Jeremy and the rest of the D&D team are geniuses, but their real genius lies in knowing and respecting the value of playtesting.

Next: the final rules for making monsters

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Will Showcase and Sell Games at Gen Con 2018

Cryptozoic - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment today announced that it will showcase current and upcoming games at Gen Con, August 2-5 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. At Booth #601, Cryptozoic will demo and sell limited pre-release quantities of several of its highly anticipated upcoming games, including Rick and Morty: The Pickle Rick Game, Pantone™: The Game, DC Spyfall, DC Deck-Building Game: Crisis Expansion Pack 4, and Epic Spell WarsTM of the Battle Wizards: Panic at the Pleasure Palace

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

More Supers Art

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 11:00

This is Agus Calcagno's rendition of the Abhumans, which I haven't got around to coloring yet. I have colored their headshots, though:

Flip Through: Alien Archive for Starfinder

Gamer Goggles - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 03:24

In this Flip Through Matt takes a look at the Alien Archive for Starfinder from Paizo.  This is no ordinary accessory with nearly 25 new player races and over a hundred aliens to put into your game.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

I wonder what’s next?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

B/X Dungeons & Dragons Along With The Winding Adventure & Campaign Set Up

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 18:34
Two events mark their passage in the next day or so. One of of course is Gary Gygax's birthday who would have been eighty years old on Friday. Its a bit hard to process this in 2018 because Mr.Gygax's death seems to be fresh in my mind. The other thing that's on my mind is B/X Dungeons & Dragons once again. The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules (1981), by Tom Moldvay,yet it seems like its still Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: In Arcadia

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 11:00
Here's another of my refinements/spins on the D&D Outer Planes. This one from 2012 was expressly for the world of Weird Adventures but might be usable elsewhere.

Astral travelers sometimes finding themselves passing through a veil of mists and arriving in the apotheosis of sylvan settings, the realm of Arcadia. In this plane dwell forgotten woodland spirits and pastoral gods and creatures out of myth.

Arcadia is hyper-real; it seems more vibrant and alive than the material plane. Smells and tastes seem directly drawn from the most vivid examples in memory; everything is in technicolor and imbued with a faint glow. The world itself is alive--with potentially communicative spirits in everything. Night and day and shifts of weather are sentimental things, sensitive to the meaning of events or the mood of powerful beings.

Arcadia borders other related realms. The Land of Faerie emerges from it (though this realm also has tunnels linking it to the Lower Planes). There is also the Land of Beasts, where the iconic animal lords dwell, ruled over by King Lion.

Despite it’s ties to age-old fables, the Land of Beasts keeps up with the expectations of modern visitors. Adventures from the City have found there home mirrored there in a city of anthropomorphic animals who frequent nightclubs and drive cars. The Cat Lord can often be found here, in the swankest of night-spots.

Magical practitioners view Arcadia and its neighboring realms as places to salvage materials and items out of myth and legend, and to parley with powers that--though perhaps consciously forgotten--still retain great mythic resonance in Man's unconscious.  As with all extraplanar dealings, caution is warranted: These primal beings have agendas of their own.

Torchbearer Sagas: Roost of the Condor Queen

Torchbearer RPG - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 17:26

The fine folks at Mordite Press are at it again. Roost of the Condor Queen will take your Torchbearer characters to the Otherworldly tree-city of Puku to plumb the mysteries of the cloudspeakers and win the precious treasures and magical artifacts of the Condor Queen!

Check it out!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

1d6 Random Low Level Dire Plots From Around The Colosseum Table For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Games

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 16:52
The blood spatters the ground & the crowd goes wild, from across the empire have been brought slaves & not all men. Through the thick roar of the crowd a lone woman leaves the thick of blood combat & makes her way along the thick marble stairs. She looks beyond distraught as she's watched another of her husband's friends die at the bloody end  sword of a sharp sword. But she has a plan & inNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

1d8 Random Low Level Sword & Sorcery Treasures Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 05:56
Treasures are uncovered after being lost to time in word, thought, & crime. These baubles cross the path of destiny into the hands of adventurers. These treasures & relics of the wasteland carry their own special brand of weirdness & strangeness for those whose path they cross. Not all the circumstances that they bring are good nor kind. I carved a woman out of marble when The walls of AthensNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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