Tabletop Gaming Feeds

OSR Commentary & Review Meat In A Tavern By Matt Finch - A Jordoba Campaign Introductory Adventure For The Swords & Wizardry Retroclone System

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 01/09/2019 - 17:55
"Meat in a Tavern takes place below the Happy Ending Tavern (also known as the Sign of the Cleaver), in the Grim Quarter of the City of Jordoba — or any fantasy city you might choose. The Grim Quarter is essentially a holding-pen type of neighborhood for the city’s most dangerous residents, the ones allowed to live here for their skills or strength, but only to reside within the walls of theNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Comixology Unlimited

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 01/09/2019 - 12:00

DC Comics has joined Marvel (and a number of indies) on Comixology Unlimited. There are currently 52 (huh?) DC titles available along with the other stuff for $5.99/month. It's not a lot, and it's mostly newer stuff, but hopefully that's just where they are starting. It might be the excuse I needed to finally go with Comixology Unlimited, but we'll see.

In other news, after a bit of holiday, I'm getting ready to return to the adventures of Storm. You might want to refresh yourself on the last story, "The Living Planet" to get ready.

Behind the Walls

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 01/09/2019 - 07:14
  • By John Large
  • Monkeyblood Design
  • Swords & Wizardry
  • Levels 1-4

Ebeneezer Garbett, a local farmer from the mushroom-filled valley village of Otterdale, returned to the hamlet with tales of riches he had found. Now, no-one has seen him since, and he villagers are becoming ill with a strange fungal infection.

This 49 page adventure has the party getting to trouble with a fungus creature in a small village. A good overview and some evocative writing is buried in text that could use some better organization to tighten up the important bits to make them stand out. A nice open-ended adventure, small, but with repercussions ala LotFP.

John hangs out at reddicediaries, his blog, and published Murder Knights of Corvendark, a nice weird little adventure that needed a bit more. This adventure feels smaller and more intimate, in spite of the page count. Set in his Miderlands, a kind of England-ish setting, this one one is right on the border with his version of Scotland. Some farmer found some Goman gold after some heavy rain, now he’s disappeared, people are dying from a sickness, and an adventuring company (! Not adventurers! A company! I love the nod to mercenary that makes this more dirt-farmer than the magical ren-faire connotations that Adventurer has!) that looked in to the coins has disappeared.

Certain elements of this harken back to The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with a fungus creature, interconnected colony creatures, and some explicit notes to make it more Pod Person like. It’s not overdone and it related to Thing and Body Snatchers in the way that they are folklore; not really gonzo explicit but more remembrances of a theme that influences how you, as DM or player, relate to the content. That’s the kind of stuff I like, the leveraging of other themes or content to bring more than the writing itself does.

The ending of this has, probably, the giant fungus creature dragging itself up from its small underground vault and heading toward the village, probably caused by or at least witnessed by the party. This feels like an adventure climax without it feeling forced, and it a kind of gentler LotFP apocalyptic ending if the creature escapes. This harkens back to Rients and his Broodmother advice or really fucking up your campaign world, and the explicit advice (in a paragraph) handles the guidelines on the greater world well if the party Oops it up. Plague masks, movements of people to drier areas less likely to fungus up … it’s good imagery.

And there’s a decent amount of good imagery in this combined with JUST enough nods to realism that it feels real, without slipping in to simulationist nonsense. The rumor tables are in voice, which adds richness to the NPC’s. There’s a feast getting ready to go off in the village, in celebration of the new found wealth flowing in from the farmer and adventuring company. A locale of humid mists, lanterns during the day, a valley alive with encounters. Tendrils growing through a door to the creature on the other side and ancient metal weapons missing their wood … it having been absorbed by the fungus creature. A little adventure overview in the beginning kind of ties everything together and orients the D on what’s to come. The fungus creature has bits of bone, gold, skulls, etc visible on its surface as it attacks while its minions try to infect rather than kill. A richness of detail in combat AND outside of combat.

But …

The art and maps, while well done from an imagery standpoint, suffer from usability issues .. .mainly the numbered locations fading in to the map. Pretty map, but I don’t want to fight it to find the numbers.

I can also complain about several smaller things. A location, seen from far off, isn’t really dealt with until you’re right up on it. ANY time the party is outside the designer needs to pay attention to what they see in the distance. It’s that Fallout 4 thin of seeing a red glow in the night that draws you to go explore there. “Oh, uh, yeah, I know it’s night and everything, but, everything is on fire.” Well, how about telling us that as we approach  instead of hiding it in the room 3 description? [That’s not an example from this adventure. In this one I’m talking about a prominent jagged outcropping that isn’t dealt with, well, from a visibility standpoint until your on top of it.] Further, the main farmstead is covered in two separate description locations in different parts of the book, NPC cross-references are haphazard, at best, and an NPC summary sheet, with location, personality, sickness, etc, is sorely missing. The investigation portion is largely social, and social adventures need different resources than room/key exploration adventure sections. The wanderers could really use some personality also. They are a cut above minimal, but not by much. A little personality in the NPC or situations would bring them to life.

It’s also very weird that the fungus is mentioned, in one place, as being highly flammable, but fire is not mentioned as a weapon against the fungus creature or its minions.

The major flaw, though, and what keeps this from a Best Of list, is the mixing of interesting details in to long text blocks. There are some great details in this but they are lost in the text presented. The descriptions and flavor are rich and, while not Failed Novelist long, picking up the pertinent details out of the text blocks is is not easy. The mist in the valley. The mold and mushrooms everywhere. The lamps lit in the day … these deserve bullet points or bolding in their paragraphs. The idea is that the DM reads it once before play and then, during play their attention is drawn to the bullets or bolding and they say “oh, yeah, that thing …” and they include it in their description to the players. This happens over and over again. I would say that it has the scenes set well, for the initial read through, but doesn’t support the DM well, at all, during actual play. Bolding, bullets, summary sheets. What do I, the DM, need RIGHT NOW as I’m running it, and can I find it easy?

This is $5 at DriveThru. The only preview is a “Quick” one, meaning you don’t get a chance to see the content at all, just a hint of the (quite nice) layout. [And rare shout out by me to the person who did the interior layout and art. I know nothing about thatshit, but it looks nice.]

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Drama, Compromise, & Commentary - Gods, Monsters, & The Dungeon Master

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 01/08/2019 - 19:22
This morning I got a phone call I was dreading. Over the last twenty four hours there's been some descent in Steve's group of players over if they want to continue on Clark Ashton Smith's  Zothique using the Siege Engine system by Troll Lord Games or try Sine Nomine Pubblishing's game Godbound rpg. Now I've been reading over the last twenty four hours I've been reading Godbound & it reads Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The True Story of the Cthulhu and Elric Sections Removed from Deities & Demigods

DM David - Tue, 01/08/2019 - 12:24

Just a couple of years after its release, the original Deities & Demigods from 1980 became legend. The first copies included sections featuring the Melnibonéan mythos from the Elric stories by Michael Moorcock and the Cthulhu mythos from the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. Every Dungeons & Dragons fan knew the legend: TSR printed the sections without permission, got sued, and now the book was censored. The tale boasted a delicious mix of scandal, arrogance, and justice, and for those of us who owned one of those banned copies, a priceless collectable certain to fund our retirements. Too bad none of legend was true.

Today, the book’s co-author, James M. Ward still works to spread the facts. “I absolutely hate it when ignorant people say TSR and I acted in copyright infringement.”

But how did the the Elric and Cthulhu content reach the book, and why did it disappear?

Deities & Demigods describes gods, mostly drawn from cultures around the world.

When James Ward started the book, he proposed a list of the pantheons he wanted to include. In addition to drawing from folklore, the list included gods created in fiction by three authors: Lovecraft, Moorcock, and Fritz Leiber. Each deeply influenced D&D co-creator Gary Gygax and the game. But to use the authors’ work, TSR needed permission.

Leiber had created the Nehwon mythos for his tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. After Leiber attended Gen Con X in 1977 as guest of honor, he had stayed a Gary’s house for a week. Gary called the author a friend. Surely, gaining Leiber’s authorization proved easy.

The chance of gaining authorization to use the work of Lovecraft and Moorcock seemed smaller.

Lovecraft’s key work suffers from a muddled copyright status. Up until 2019, any stories he published before 1923 qualified as public domain, but his most important stories, including “Call of Cthulhu” and “At the Mountains of Madness” reached print later. After the author’s death, two of Lovecraft’s protégés founded Arkham House Publishers to print collections of his work. Today, Arkham House claims Lovecraft’s copyrights. But did Lovecraft’s heirs ever actually transfer the rights to the publisher? Also, prior to 1978, copyright holders needed to renew copyrights to maintain ownership. Failure to renew landed the movie It’s a Wonderful Life in the public domain. Did a once, nearly-forgotten writer of pulp fiction get more mindful handling? Did anyone with legal standing ever file renewals? Decades have buried the answers. This year, Lovecraft’s remaining copyrights begin to expire, year by year, until the last expire in 2032. Until then, his tales may or may not be in public domain.

Nonetheless, Jim Ward wrote Arkham House asking to include Lovecraft’s material. He received a letter back granting permission. At about the same time, the game company Chaosium struck a similar deal. In design notes in Different Worlds magazine, editor Lynn Willis wrote, “I negotiated rights for the Cthulhu mythos from Arkham House.” Call of Cthulhu would not reach print until the summer of 1981, but work on the game started much earlier. “After many months delay, the manuscript of the game was unsatisfactory, and had to be turned down. It was originally was to be a 1980 release; now we were hoping for 1981.” In 1980, Sandy Petersen took over the project and delivered a classic role-playing game.

More than likely, someone at Arkham failed to realize how granting a permission to describe Lovecraft’s mythos in a game-related reference book conflicted with a license to publish a game. How could a game be a book? Granting permission to TSR probably just seemed like a good way to introduce Lovecraft to a wider audience.

In the popular conception of the time, games sold from toy stores for children. Gaming remained a tiny hobby that few even knew existed. No one outside the hobby considered existential horror tales from the 1920s a suitable topic for a game. Requests to use Cthulhu for a game of all things probably puzzled the administrative staff at Arkham. As this story keeps showing, few outside of gaming saw game rights to fiction as anything of value.

Jim Ward wrote Michael Moorcock requesting authorization to describe the mythos from the Elric stories. The author granted permission. In a 2009 interview, he explains his thinking. “It was in the spirit of the 60s/70s when it seemed to many of us that we were sharing in a common culture and the products of that culture.”

But Moorcock proved overly generous. Years earlier, Chaosium had bought the board-game rights to the Elric books. That license led to the Elric game in 1977. After the success of RuneQuest, Chaosium decided to adapt their roleplaying game rules to Moorcock’s fiction, so they returned to Moorcock’s agent and gained an RPG license.

Chaosium insider and RuneQuest designer Steve Perrin explains the source of the trouble. “Chaosium arranged for the Elric license through Moorcock’s agent. Jim went directly to Moorcock, who did not consult with his agent. He just sent back a note saying ‘Go for it.’ So the only person Chaosium could sue would be Moorcock, which is not a good practice between a licensor and licensee.”

Arioch from the 1st printing of Deities & Demigods

Moorcock never expected his tales of a doomed sorcerer and a soul-stealing sword to become valuable for gaming. “I hadn’t anticipated that some people would start turning all this stuff into commercial businesses and so it was a bit of a surprise when D&D and Chaosium, for instance, started fighting over who ‘owned’ the rights to the Elric ‘cosmology.’”

In 1980, Deities & Demigods reached gamers, complete with sections describing the Melnibonéan mythos and the Cthulhu mythos. Meanwhile, Chaosium prepared to publish their Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu role-playing games in 1981. They sent cease-and-desist letters to TSR. “I don’t blame them a bit,” Ward writes. However, Chaosium knew nothing about the two letters authorizing TSR to use the content.

The legal demand put TSR in a bind. Armed with their letters of permission, TSR could have fought. “The company wasn’t rich at that point,” Ward explains. Brian Blume, TSR’s head of operations, “didn’t want to go to California, get a California lawyer, and spend time and money winning the case.” TSR could have stopped selling Deities & Demigods, but it sold great. Pulling the book meant pulping copies on hand, reprinting, and paying new costs. Reprinting the book with fewer pages would take time. During the lapse, some customers would lose interest and TSR would lose sales.

So TSR sought an accommodation with Chaosium. Fortunately, both companies had something to give.

In addition to the licensed role-playing games Chaosium scheduled for 1981, the company planned Thieves’ World, a roleplaying supplement based on Robert Asprin’s shared-world series of books. In order to give the supplement maximum appeal, it would include game stats for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Adventures in Fantasy, Chivalry & Sorcery, DragonQuest, The Fantasy Trip, RuneQuest, Tunnels & Trolls, and even Traveller. But TSR zealously defended the trademarks to AD&D and D&D. If the supplement touted compatibility and named the games on the cover, Chaosium needed permission. In Designers & Dragons, game historian Shannon Appelcline writes, “Chaosium got the rights to use the TSR trademarks in Thieves’ World and in exchange TSR was allowed to continue using the [Melnibonéan and Cthulhu mythos in Deities & Demigods].” As part of the deal, TSR added a notice into the book’s second printing. “Special Thanks are also given to Chaosium, Inc. for permission to use the material found in the Cthulhu Mythos and the Melnibonéan Mythos.”

If TSR had kept the notice and the original content, the story would have ended quietly, with no bogus legends of plagiarism and banning. But for 1980’s third printing, TSR had time to drop the Lovecraft and Moorcock sections and reconfigure the book with fewer pages.

Why did Brian Blume choose to withdraw the content despite trading for permission to keep it? Appelcline cites a desire to soothe the same fears of Satanism that would lead TSR to retitle the book Legends & Lore in 1985. Presumably, existential horror and evil gods might worry parents, and that worried TSR. Other sources say Blume didn’t want a TSR book to fuel interest in Elric or Cthulhu because that would drive players to a competitor’s games.

As for a copy of Deities & Demigods funding a retirement, more copies of the first two printings exist than the legend suggests. According to the D&D collector’s site The Acaeum as many as 15,000 copies reached buyers. In auction, the book fetches more than other D&D hardcovers, but prices have fallen.

In an odd postscript, Fritz Leiber, the third author featured in Deities & Demigods, would land TSR and Chaosium in a second dispute over conflicting licenses. In 1983, Chaosium planned a follow up to Thieves’ World featuring Leiber’s city of Lankhmar. They already had a license agreement when TSR announced that they had a license from Leiber too. “It turned out that Leiber had indeed licensed both companies,” Appelcline writes. “Chaosium pointed out that their license was earlier, but TSR replied that if that was the case, they would sue Leiber.” Gary Gygax may have counted the author as a friend, but Brian Blume ran TSR. To protect Leiber from a suit, Chaosium dropped their claim. In an email, Chaosium founder Greg Stafford explained the decision. “Fritz was one of my literary heroes in those days, and also a terminal alcoholic, and I just imagined the havoc that would ensue for him, so I just dropped it.” In 1985, TSR published Lankhmar: City of Adventure.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Divine Destruction & Possible New Gaming Group With An OSR Twist - Godbound Rpg By Kevin Crawford Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 01/08/2019 - 08:16
Against my heart your heart is closed; you bid me go:What ways are left in all the world for love to know ?Desolate oceans, and the light of lonely plains,Dead moons that wander in the wastes of ice and snow—These, these I fain would see, and find the splendid bournOf sunset, or the Brazen deserts of the morn,That I might lose this ever-aching lonelinessIn vaster solitude; and love be Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Final Death & Depravity In The Zothique Wastelands - Clark Ashton Smith Inspired Zothique Actual Play Session Report Five

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 20:13
Deep in my heart, as in the hollow stoneAnd silence of some olden sepulcher,Thy silver beauty lies, and shall not stir—Forgotten, incorruptible, alone:Though altars darken, and a wind be blownFrom starless seas on beacon-fires that were—Within thy tomb, with oils of balm and myrrh,For ever burn the onyx lamps unknown.And though the bleak Novembral gardens yieldRose-dust and ivy-leaf, nor Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cowpie Mushrooms

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 12:12
  • By Martin O
  • Goodberry Monthly blog
  • OSR
  • Low Levels

Inspired by real life events! About mushrooms that grow on cow shit! It has cows and doggos in it!

This eight page heist adventure outline is about harvesting mushrooms that grow on cow shit … from farms with uncooperative farmers. Generally well organized, it gets in and out fast with a good  focus on gameable information rather than trivia. A little more lead in and a map would have made this super great, instead of just good. It’s a silly fucking heist, but, the best D&D is Heist D&D, a sandbox area and some stupid fucking plans created by the party. It’s hard to not like heist D&D.

This is really a kind of outline of an adventure. It gives you a brief one page overview of the goals (stealing mushrooms to sell to a rich asshole) and a little background and then launches in to descriptions of the three farms. The descriptions are focused on the task at hand: stealing the mushrooms. You get three power curves: a senile farmer with two cows, a farmer with about two dozen cows and dogs, and a farmer with forty cows and a military background and large family.

The elements present include a local sheriff, about an hour away, who hassles the party a bit in town and warns them about lynch mobs. Note what this does, giving the party two important bits of information. Not only do they have to worry about the farmers, but now they have to worry about the sheriff getting sent for and the local mob militia. But … they also know he’s about an hour away … both of which can now factor in to their plans.

The farms are tersly described. The house and farm, proper, is just a blow off in a sentence or two. The focus is on the people and NPC’s. How they react to both an up-front appeal “let us collect the mushrooms” and how they react to trespassers at night. A schedule for each farm, letting the party know who is where, and brief but sticky personality quirks. You get dogs who go for the face or crotch combined with sweet little quiet bulldogs. You get suspicious teenagers along with a little kid who loves candy and another who loves adventurers.

Note how good things are mixed in the bad. There are things to take advantage of, and things to watch for. The adventure locales are a collection of elements good and bad, for the party to build their plan and attempt to execute.

Bolding is used to good effect to call out certain sections of text, helping the DM locate important bits. The personalities are terse, in just a couple of words per, but stick well. Arthritic beagle, a dog that barks incessantly but it the sweetest dog ever. You know how to run this once you read it. The vision is communicated well.

On the downside …

There’s no map of the farms. Yes, I know, I sound like an ass. But a decent map of the farms and/or surrounding lands would have allowed more caper play, sneaking behind hedgerows and setting fire to things and the like.

There’s also a more that could be done with the summaries. The dogs have a personality summary on one page and a stat summary on another page. A little combined action would have been nice, but it’s not a deal breaker, since the adventure IS only eight pages long.

The map is, I think, a part of a larger problem. The focus is on the three fams and everything outside of that is handled in just a paragraph or two. Just a TAD more in the way of the region/local village/buyer assholes, would have provided a more solid grounding for kicking the adventure off. As is, we’re just told the buyer is a rich asshole. That’s enough to run him for me, but adding another one or two buyers, and maybe the BAREST of villagers/towns nearby, and a little regions map (without more detail) would have provided the DM just a few more tools to kick the thing off and run some of the more interesting complications.

Everything drives the action. All of the details are focused on the task on hand. The words are all meaningful to the adventure. It’s a rare adventure that can do that. This is a nice little adventure.

This is free over at the Goodberry Monthly blog.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Highs and Lows of the Toad Temple

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 12:00

Our Land of Azurth 5e game continued last night, with the part just having escaped the bowels of the Toad Temple oppressing the land of Under Sea, to a loading dock on a canal surrounded by swamp. A swim across the canal provokes the attack of a giant leech, which is warned off by arrow fire. A trek across the swamp leads to a nocturnal encounter with a giant frog and a giant alligator that nearly bit Erekose the fighter in twain. (The random encounter rolls were not on their side.)

As they near civilization they borrow a boat and make it back to the frogling village. Avoiding the Toad cultist patrols who are eager to find the daring rogues who defiled their worship and killed their high priest, the party returns to their barn hideout for a rest.

The next morning, they decide to return to the temple and see if they can destroy it in some way. Kairon and Erekose favor fire. (Erekose had already shown a pyromaniac streak after his unilateral and pragmatic but cold-blooded decision to kill two captives with Burning Hands the night before.) Other party members just want to induce the cult to leave by any means necessary.

They ask the ambassador to get the townsfolk to stage a riot at the temple doors. The party hopes this will divert the cult forces so they can sneak back in. Kully the bard goes to help rally the townspeople.

The plan seems to work in that the loading dock and the lower levels seem virtually abandoned. After a search of the upper dungeon, they find stairs to a tower, where they overhear a ground of guards discussing a squabble over succession with the ranks of the cult luminaries. They get the drop on them and kill them all. Still, they can't kill every cultist in the place (probably), and they still haven't figured out a way to make them leave.

Call of Cthulhu Actual Play - Still Waters

19th Level - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 02:29

Though based in Boston, the investigators do make occasional forays. When an opportunity to acquire a forbidden tome in Biloxi, Mississippi arises, the Watch and Ward Society sends one of their agents and her allies. Professor Victor Davies was willing to donate the Vishakhapatnam Fragment to Harvard University in return for access to some of Harvard's restricted texts. Not a perfect deal, but the chance to take the Fragment out of circulation could not be ignored.

Based on the adventure "Still Waters" by L.N. Isynwill and Doug Lyons from Chaosium's The Great Old Ones book.

Setting: Boston. Tuesday, October 13 - Wednesday, October 14, 1914, Davies Landing, Mississippi.

Cast of Characters:Investigators:
  • Colin O'Connor: Civil engineer from Dunmore, Ireland. Employed as a civil engineer by the city of Boston.
  • Lola Diaz Azar: Archaeologist hailing from Puerto Rico, born of a Puerto Rican mother and Middle Eastern father. Agent of the New England Watch and Ward Society, specializing in occult tomes.
  • Nathaniel Quincy, MD, Captain, US Army (Ret.) Former army doctor, served in Nicaragua and the Philippines. Now working as a medical examiner for Essex County.

  • Victor Davies, bibliophile and historian
  • Philippa Davies, Victor's daughter. Former classmate of Lola
  • Claude Lareen - Townsperson in Davies' Landing
  • Raymond Brown, Davies' butler
  • Adele Brown. Raymond's wife

SummaryAs the investigators prepped for their train ride, Lola received a telegram from Philippa, a former university classmate, looking forward to seeing her again and telling her there would be a car waiting to take them to Sunset Hall, their modest mansion, on the evening of October 13.
They completed a long train ride, with a transfer in New Orleans, and reached Davies' Landing on schedule. It was a cold, drizzly evening - unseasonably chill. There was no car waiting for them. No one got off with them. The small town was not electrified - a small dangling light bulb at the platform was powered by a gasoline generator. A little after 7 PM, the sun had set and the last remnants of twilight were fading.
They worked their way into the small town, with all the windows dark. Sunset Hall was perhaps three miles away - certainly walkable, but not a pleasant walk in the rain and with their baggage. Dogs noticed their arrival and barked - and barked, and barked. Eventually one of the houses opened to them, owned by Mr. Claude Lareen. Claude lit his stove and made the investigators some coffee, offering to take them to Sunset Hall. His wife was less than thrilled, worried about "Old Bill" - supposedly a giant alligator that preys on animals and people - a legend Claude assured them - a small donation helped smooth things over - for the church of course.
The ride was not by automobile but by horse drawn wagon. Reaching the estate they saw the garage doors open and the garage empty, with tire tracks showing there was normally a vehicle there. A generator provided electricity to the estate. 
Within they found some horrors - Raymond and Adele Brown both dead, their internal organs removed and piled neatly. An investigation by Nathanial estimated they'd been dead for perhaps a day. 
An investigation of the house did not turn up the Davies. It did turn up some interesting and disturbing clues however:
  • A number of minor Mythos tomes in the library. 
  • Acquisitions logs showing willingness to steal and kill for getting new books.
  • A truck in a barn (but not the Davies' Packard).
  • An obsession with competitors - competitors supposedly based out of the supposedly Rosethorne Mansion, only a few miles away.
  • An obsession with the Rosethorne family - Patricia and Nathaly, twin sisters, were supposedly the last of them. Brody Rosethorne was a slave trader and then a prominent Klansman after the Civil War. He and his wife died in 1875. The twins then lived with distant relatives in Florida and are recorded as having died of typhoid in 1879.
  • A spell to quicken mental faculties - requiring incestuous activities - which photos indicate did take place between the two Davies.
  • A record for a copy of a key to the Rosethorne Mansion.
  • A memo to ready the Fragments for pickup - they were indeed expected.
Claude went to summon the sheriff while the investigators got the truck running (it was in mediocre shape) and drove to the Rosethorne Mansion, arriving around midnight.
Near the mansion they found the Davies' Packard, hidden in the woods. In the trunk of the Packard were the Fragments - a series of metal plates with Sanskrit writing. They parked by it and approached the mansion. It was nearly empty but in a fireplace they found a hidden stairwell down, requiring two people to open the door. On an iron tablet made visible by the door were a pair of inscriptions:Dedicatory To Our Flesh: Daughters, look once upon this and preserve. A Great Power gives your dying parents leave to ward back
Death at a price paid gladly, for the clay is cold and wormy. Now taken from this place, yet you shall return when the years are right.
We mark our path for you. There is life below, as you shall know, and in the still waters, and in the sea. We shall meet again.Around the Dedicatory flowed a different script in Roman letters:Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh
wgah’ naglfhtagnDescending the steps they found living chambers - with the Davies at a table, dead and mutilated, nailed in place. On Victor was a paper saying "I Liked Books Too Much" and on Philippa a note saying "I Am A Naughty Book Grabber!".

Then they were visited pair of hideous, squid-like women. Patricia and Nataly, alive and...  somewhat well. They weren't like the fish-men from Innsmouth they had seen, they were more... alien. The sight of them was too much for Colin who found himself enamored of all things of the sea. He pledged himself to them.  Nathaly charged at them while Patricia played a alien-sounding organ, singing songs of their imminent death.

Nathaniel tried dragging Colin away, without much success, as he dodged the non-human claws of Nathaly. Lola fled to their vehicles and grabbed a gasoline can, igniting the place on fire. That broke the spell for Colin, who allowed himself to be dragged away. The sisters fled deeper into the basement.

The fire damaged the mansion, but did not destroy it, owing to the rain. Returning to it they discovered the sisters had an escape route - a tunnel leading into the river - and an emptied out library. They also learned a yacht departed Davies Landing in the early morning of the 14th, after the fire - the Nathaly. The squid-women were free and at sea.

Nevertheless they took some solace in obtaining a number of tomes and removing them from circulation.
Adventure NotesAside from the move to an earlier period (from the 1920s to 1914), I found the geography a bit odd. Biloxi was listed as the closest city but the adventure also was on the Chickasway River - I assume that's fictional, though there is a Chickaswhay River (slightly different spelling) but it does not reach the Gulf. I decided to move this to the Biloxi River.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cymrilians [5e race]

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 01/06/2019 - 15:00
The country of Cymril lies at the center of Seven Kingdoms and its green crystal-spired capital is the greatest city and unofficial capital of the alliance. It's people are descendants of the Phandre, masters of sorceries and rulers of Old Phaedra, until a rebellion instigated by the Orthodoxist faithful. Many Phandre were put to torment, but most of the wizards fled like beetles exposed beneath an upturned stone. In the wilderness they founded Cymril.

The Cymrilians are counted among the Talislantan races of men, so the standard human 5e racial options could be used for them. However, I think something like these variant human subtypes probably fit the Talislantan millieu better. Unless otherwise noted, treated them as human in particulars.
Cymrilian Traits:Ability Score Increase: Intelligence score and one other ability score increases by 1.Size: Cymrilians are taller and leaner than human average, with most around 6 feet in height. Medium.Skills: Gain proficiency in one skill.Magical Aptitude: Though not all Cymrilians are wizards, all possess at least a small magical facility. Each knows one cantrip of the player's choice from the wizard list. Intelligence is the spellcasting ability for it. Languages: Cymrilians can speak, read, and write Low Talislan and High Talislan.Subrace: Choose one of following subraces.
KoresiansTypically just called Cymrilians, they are the dominant group in society. They have pale green skin and hair, and golden eyes.Ability Score Increase: One ability score increases by 1 point.Magical Society: Gain proficiency in Arcana.Languages: Koresians can speak, read, and write ancient Archaen.
TanasiansTanasians are the exiled descendants of the former Phandre ruling caste and make up less than two percent of the Cymrilian population. Some have been raised in exile by families perhaps yearning to regain their former glory. Others may have gone to live in the wilderness, abandoning what they seen as the folly of their ancestors and political intrigues. Tanasians physically resemble Koresians.Ability Score Increase: One ability score increases by 1 point.Skills: Traditionally raised exiles gain proficiency in Arcana, while dissenters gain proficiency in Athletics and SurvivalLanguages: Traditionally-raised Tanasians speak an additional language, likely one related to their place of exile.
PharesiansMake up about three percent of Cymrilians. They are voluntary exiles and nonconformists, owing to historical prejudice against the lime green of their skin. Many become itinerant peddlers of talismans and arcane parephenalia.Ability Score Increase: Wisdom score increases by 1 point.Skills: Gain proficiency in Perception and one other skill.

Cosmic Calamity, Ultra Weird Violence, & The Return of the Gonzo OSR Dungeon

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 01/06/2019 - 08:41
So I'm not sure when this happened exactly but apparently the stars aligned in a cosmic OSR display again as three things quietly happened at the same time this past week. The first of which is the fact that James Mishler has quietly been building his own gonzo campaign setting based on the Labyrinth Lord retro clone system;  "This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to building a Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Film Review - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

19th Level - Sun, 01/06/2019 - 03:33

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is easily my favorite Spider-Man film, one of my top superhero films, and one of my top animated films. 
It’s a rare film - one that takes a lot of chances and wins. My younger daughter, aged 13, is a superhero fan, though more in the DC camp, loved it. She chose to see it a second time over an Aquaman viewing. 
So what about it is so awesome? I’m going to go into some spoiler territory here, though I’ll try to keep it mild for those who haven’t seen it (go see it). 
I’ll start with the animation/style. Into the Spider-Verse feels like a comic book made into a film. It features text captions, comic books, multiple panels on the screen at once, etc. With multiple Spider-beings from different universes, it gives them all their own art styles - Spider-Man Noir, from an alternate 1930s, is in black and white. He literally cannot see color. And where he goes the wind follows. And it smells like rain. Peni Parker and her SP/dr suit are presented in a quasi-anime style. Spider-Ham (yes, he is in this film) is in Loony Toons style. The city environment of New York was gorgeous. It felt like a New York.
From that paragraph you’be an idea of the chances the film took. It could have been laughable - and there were some laughs to be sure - but really it had a high chance of falling into farce and deftly avoided that. 
We’ve also got Peter Parker. He breezes through his origin story - a story that is essentially the Rami Spider-Man trilogy, with upside-down kissing, stopping of trains, and emo dancing. But he goes beyond that. We see Peter Parker’s life go south. He gets married to Mary-Jane but the marriage goes south. Eventually they split up and we are treated to a going-on middle-age, getting a little chunky, depressed Peter Parker. I think this was an essential decision. The Spider-Man films struggle allowing Peter to be anything other than a high school, maybe college, student. For most of his career in the comics he has been beyond that. This Peter could have been played for laughs - and again, there are some deliberate laughs, but there’s some real genius here. Though a bit burnt out and defeated by life, this Peter Parker still has it. He’s still a genius, he’s still a hero. He’s still filled with compassion, though it may take a little poking to get to it.
We also get a Spider-Woman - Gwen Stacy, from another universe. She was an absolute joy to experience. Like the main Peter Parker, she’s taken some beatings from life and while heroic, she is distant, not wanting to get hurt by losing more people she cares about. It goes without saying, that every Spider-Being has their own “Uncle Ben” equivalent. 
Finally there’s the main Spider-Person of the film, Miles Morales. In a film with over half a dozen Spider-Beings, he is never overshadowed. It is his movie. He is a young Afro-Latino boy who is attending a boarding STEM-type school. He has a good family life. He has a bit of an awkward relationship with his father (not wanting rides to school on Mondays from his dad - in a police car, with his dad a cop). He is especially close to his father’s estranged brother, his Uncle Aaron. Aaron isn’t quite on the right side of the law but the two nevertheless clearly love each other. 
The film shows us Miles getting bit by his own radioactive spider and the treat of him discovering his powers (“it’s a puberty thing”). 
Much of the film is spent with the Spider-Beings meeting each other. Rather than avoiding origin stories, the film gives us one for each of them - breezing through them, but not holding back. 
We know that Peter’s great challenge was learning that with great power comes great responsibility. That’s not quite Miles’ challenge. Miles is plunged into a world of super-beings with no warning and is in dire circumstances. And he is, quite frankly, terrified. It doesn’t totally paralyze him - he wants to do the right thing. But he can’t quite control his powers - he has trouble unsticking to walls and can’t consciously control some powers he received beyond the traditional ones. I hope I’m not giving away anything when I write his whole arc is getting to the point where he masters those powers. But is is beautifully done. The best dialogue in the film is between Miles and Peter. Miles wants to know when he’ll be ready - when he’ll really be Spider-Man. ”You won’t. It’s all it is, Miles. A leap of faith.” That is Miles’ “with great power comes great responsibility”. And the payoff is one of the most beautifully done superhero scenes.
Gwen and Peter are the other main Spider-Beings (though all were given some great moments and felt fully realized). And they had their own arcs. Gwen needing to be able to open up again. And Peter moving past his mistakes and repairing his life. Peter is especially sad - in my opinion there’s some scenes that show him slipping towards suicidal tendencies. But mentoring Miles allows him to see he still has stuff to offer - there’s no guarantee he won’t mess things up again - for him to, moving forward will be a leap of faith.
The music was fantastic - a combination of an instrumental score and a lot of hip-hop and rap. Sometimes played together to great effect. 
The voice acting was great - they made some great decisions on who they chose to do the voices and the actors delivered. It was poignant having one last speaking Stan Lee cameo - one that drives the plot (and touchingly, the film ended with a dedication to both Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, both of whom passed away in 2018).

The film ends with the possibility of sequels - of many sequels. Amazing Spider-Man 2 was designed for the possibility of creating a “cinematic universe” for Spider-Man. It failed pretty spectacularly. Into the Spider-Verse pulled it off fantastically. I want to see more of all of these Spider-Beings - together or separately. I especially want to see more of Miles Morales.

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Praise the Fallen

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 01/05/2019 - 12:18

There were those demented powers that wanted to return all to naught, to become one with the Ever Slumbering Void.  Pantheons collided and the heavens shattered with war. Untold cosmic powers were lost without their names ever spoken by mortal tongues.  Countless legions fell. Defeated in their gambit of annihilation, they scattered across the universe. Several of the Fallen, fell to this world, forever imprisoned at their point of impact…

This sixteen page adventure describes a thirty room dungeon, home to a cult trying to resurrect the fallen angel that crashed there in eons past. Decent usability at the table and a kind of … starkness (in a good way) of the cult and temple remind me a bit of the starkness of the old Tharizdun adventure (WG4?) mashed up a bit with Death Frost Doom to add a bit of local color.

There was this old 3e supplement from an indie called The Void that I bought at a local indy game store that is now closed. It represented something outside of law and chaos, and in fact as you progressed down the prestige classes offered you lost an axis from your alignment. It had a decent idea, presenting the void as something outside of the normal game. This adventure isn’t exactly that, since it has a fallen angel, but it does capture a bit of that otherness/void/nothing feel. There was a certain starkness, a coldness, from WG4, and this has a lot of that same vibe going on, but in this case it’s brought a little more to life with more modern use than WG4 had. I guess because there IS a cult in this place.

I should mention the layout first since its something I’ve only seen once or twice before. You you took a dungeon map of thirty rooms and divided it up in to sections of four or five rooms each, and then put a mini-map of those four rooms on a single page and all of the room descriptions for the same page, then you have an idea of the layout. Reminiscent of parts of Blue Medusa, and several “a bunch of one page dungeons make up the campaign” adventures, I seem to recall only one or two other adventures also having this exact same layout. It works pretty well, forcing the room descriptions to be short. There does seem to be an unnatural mania, though, with keeping the room numbers off of the map that I don’t understand at all. Both the main map and the mini-maps don’t have any rooms numbers on them all, in spire of the individual rooms being numbered. There are just arrows drawn from the text sections to the point on the map. Arrows that sometimes don’t come through well. It doesn’t seem easy to know which part of the booklet to run to to find the next section of the dungeon the party moved in to, or at least not as intuitive as it should be. The decision to leave room numbers off doesn’t seem to have another purpose, and detracts from ease of use.

The encounters are suitably creepy. “There are 4 statues of angels in various stages of anguish. Each statue has a kneeler in front of it. NE angel is reaching back toward heaven as he falls, his wings distingigrating.” [three more one sentence statue descriptions] [A one sentence description of what happens when someone of law, chaos, neutral kneels on the kneeler.] [The mini-map also has a short one-sentence text box pointing to each statue, describing an item that the statue can give.]

First, excellent layout. What’s the first thing the DM needs when the players enter the room? It’s the first sentence of the room description! Then, the obvious follow question from the players is answered: whats each statue doing? Then a short listing of the interactive effects, based on alignment, with the boons cleverly noted by the other text boxes. There are both good and bad things that can happen to the party, which is good design. If only bad things ever happen when you play with the dungeons toys then you will no longer play with the toys, which doesn’t make ANYONE happy. Tying it to alignment, in this case, isn’t exactly my favorite tactic, but, finally, a use for that Undetectable Alignment spell that doesn’t involve an NPC using it to trick the party, maybe?  Note also the wording. Anguish. A kneeler. Wings disintegrating, not to mention the imagery of an anguished angel rach back to heaven as it falls, with its overloaded cultural attachment that we all have. This is a good room description. Oh, also, if you fuck up in this room then the doors to the dungeon lock and the only way to unlock them is to sacrifice someone while saying “Praise [angel name], the Fallen.” Sweet! And we know this because of the trance someone goes in to when they fail their save which causes the effect. There were consequences for your action, the DM notified you of it, and there’s now this kind of … timer? that hangs over the adventure: how do we get out? Again, good design. You communicate things to the party, raising the stakes.

Another room has a statue (yeah, a number of statues in this one …) reach out as if you grasp a persons hand. Do you? Huh? Well? It looks inviting … The DM knows its a set up. The party knows. The DM knows the party knows and they know he knows. Delightful anticipation and tension, a hallmark of good D&D!

Nice magic items, wanderers doing things, same level depth transitions, in media res stuff, like a little girl about to get sacrificed. Lots of good stuff going on in here, including some prisoners to rescue and some friends to potentially make. A nice ally to the cult, the Phaen Witch, not really a member but more of an independent agent, also shows up, rising up out of the floor in places and times. Good imagery, good NPC vision.

The text description style gets a little much in places, and something as simple as a bolded black dot, between different text sections in a room, would have gone a long way to help in a couple of the longer rooms. And the layout style, while forcing a sparness, doesn’t benefit a few things, such as “2 Swords of Light.” Those probably could have used another couple of words of description. It also makes an appeal to rolling your own magic items and treasure in places. Again, sparness is appreciated, but not to the extent it sacrifices to abstraction. An appendix is a wonderful thing, the adventure could stick room treasure there and still maintain its dedication to the format its chosen. There’s also a kind of “Hey, you just stumbled on to the the ritual that JUST completed to bring the angel back to life!” Yeah, ok, I get what the designer is trying to do. Trying just a little too hard, I think. Maybe a mechanic to push the ritual forward instead of an ex machina would have been in order? The hook here is also not really present. Just a map with a note about it being the location of a fallen angel. So, bring your own hook and place your own reason for the party wanting to be here. “Treasure” ,meaning XP, is the usual reason for OSR adventurers, but the implication is there that there is some GOOD to be done, which, tonally, doesn’t really match an OSR motivation. Making the Fallen Angel an oracle, or you need its dust, or something like that, maybe.

I will mention also, the art style, something I usually don’t care about. Most adventure art doesn’t really contribute to the adventure. It’s just a picture. In rare cases it can really contribute to the vibe the adventure is going for or help communicate something like the horror of a monster. The art here is all a kind of black and white, maybe with negative images? (I don’t know shit about art.) What I DO know is that it does a great job in helping set the mood for the DM on the starkness of the VOID imagery that runs throughout the adventure.

This is free at their blog. It’s an interesting thing. You should pick it up AND encourage the designer to make more. Oh, and !!!ALSO TELL THEM TO STICK A LEVEL ON IT NEXT TIME!!! Grrrr… pet peeve …

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Review & Commentary On The Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure Box Set By Jeff Grubb, Aaron Allston, & Thomas M. Reid

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 01/05/2019 - 07:46
"Karameikos ... a classic fantasy setting where bold adventurers can become Legendary heroes. Whether you have played only the First Quest audio CD game or have enjoyed the AD&D game for years, you'll find high adventure in the kingdom of Karameikos. Discover a magical land sure to challenge the bravest hearts and sharpest swords. Hear this realm come to life in two extraordinary quests Needles
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The Top 10 Types of Parlor Games useable in Dungeons and Dragons

Hack & Slash - Fri, 01/04/2019 - 13:00
You know, for kids!

Sometimes, it will be necessary to have a small diversion during play. Perhaps a character is gambling, or they have an opportunity to avoid combat. You can even use some of these to resolve appropriate situations. Let's look at some popular and easy parlor games that can be integrated into Dungeons & Dragons. These are not full time replacements for mechanics, but something you can drop into a game. As always, it's never recommended to put one of these in the way of the game progressing. Non-traditional tasks should be optional.

10. Two lies and a truth. The rules to this game are simple. Make three statements, one of which is a lie and the other person must guess one. This is particularly useful for Dungeons & Dragons because you are playing characters, adding a second layer upon the game. The statements are made in character, and the interplay between the characters over the players provides interesting situations, while also empowering players to expand on their backstory!

9. Piggy. This is good for a game in a maze or darkness. Have the character seeking a way out close their eyes. Then have a person in the group squeal like a hog. If the blind player can determine who is the person that made the noise, they have succeeded in their sightless navigation (or made their listen roll, etc.)

8. Codes, puzzles and riddles. I've talked about using these before. But it's possible to do so without any preparation. Simply search for word puzzles and riddles will give you more than you need for years of play, but it's a good idea to have a couple famous ones in mind. Much like jeopardy questions, people like knowing trivia. "No hinges, latches or lid, inside a golden treasure is hid!"

7. Don't Laugh! This is great for a test of will or constitution. The game is simple. The player must not crack a smile for 60 seconds while the rest of the group attempt to make them laugh. If you have to be told not to infringe on personal space inappropriately during this game, you probably shouldn't be playing Dungeons & Dragons.

6. Slaps. Did you like bullies in high school? Relive the memory awkwardly with your friends by playing slaps! The Dungeon Master puts out his hands palm up. Someone places their hands a few centimeters above the Dungeon Master's hands. The Dungeon Master tries to slap the players hands. If they fail, the player succeeds. If they hit the player, that probably sucks for the player, because getting slapped on the hand hurts. If the player flinches or pulls their hands away before the Dungeon Master starts moving, they also fail.
Somebody who likes you but is also insecure usually bullies someone by punching someone in the shoulder is what generally happened next. This doesn't have to happen in your game of course.

5. High Card or War. Pick a card, reveal your card. The higher card wins! This is a classic game. War is played to win the deck. The number of cards gathered or lost can be used to determine outcomes of actual battles, where you get cards equal to your troop count. Ties have a runoff, where three cards are burned (Each player turns 3 cards face up to add to the weight of the conflict), and the fourth duels, high card winning. Ties cascade of course.

4. Game of Phones! I saw bumblebee the other day with my daughter. It takes place in 1987. I told my daughter that 1987 was when daddy and momma were kids and there was no internet or cell phones. She said, "You didn't have TV?"
So yeah, I am old and we are in the future. Name a word or theme, and give everyone in the room 60 seconds (90 seconds if the phone is more than a few years old) to come up with the best image or video from the internet related to the word or theme. Players vote for their favorite.

3. Never have I ever played in character can be entertaining. The game is played by a person saying "Never have I ever. . . " and then states an embarrassing occurrence, such as having sex in an uncomfortable place (like the back seat of a volkswagen). It doesn't have to be sexual. "Never have I ever been robbed while drunk!"

2. Race the dice. A simple game is everyone rolls 2d6 and the low roll loses a 'life'. You can set a number of losses. This is an interesting way to handle a race. Different factors can change the die sizes. Bonuses are very powerful since you are averaging two dice, so probably you shouldn't use them!

1. Finally, Liar's dice. This classic game is played with 5d6. Each player rolls their dice and hides them behind a wall or cup. This is a pure test of player skill and the ability to bluff and lie, making it a possible tool for a tense social situation! Everyone rolls. The first player has to bid on how many dice of a certain number there are. The next player either has to raise the bid, either by increasing the number of dice or the number on the die or both, or they can challenge and call. If called, all dice are revealed. And if the dice are there, the caller loses a die. If not, the liar loses a die. The game continues until only one player has dice, them being the winner. Quicker games can be played with fewer dice and fewer players. A 1 on 1 game with the Dungeon Master could be used to resolve a deception or insight attempt. Variants include 1's being considered wild cards and representing whichever numbers are generated.

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Dungeonmaster! [ICONS]

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 01/04/2019 - 12:00

Prowess: 3
Coordination: 4
Strength: 3
Intellect: 5
Awareness: 4
Willpower: 5

Stamina: 8

Specialties: Geek Pop Culture

A Lonely Nerd, Deep Down
Impulse Control Issues
"I'm the Dungeonmaster, here!"

Icosahedron of Ioum (Magic Wizardry Device): 8
Images (Programmed)
Spatial Control (Shaping)
Teleportation (Portal)
Probably Control (When a situation doesn't go his way, he can "re-roll" the Icosahedron, i.e. utlizie this power. Either the will of the device or a psychological quirk of Dilbert's considers this cheating. After each use he must test his Willpower against his Probability Control Power level, with a failure meaning loss of his powers for a number of pages equal to the degree of failure.)

Background:Alter Ego: Arnold "Arnie" Francis Dilbert IIIOccupation: Former college student; Professional CriminalMarital Status: SingleKnown Relatives: Arnold and Patricia Dilbert (parents)Group Affiliation: Masters of MenaceBase of Operations: MobileFirst Appearance: SUPER-SENTINEL TEAM-UP #85Height: 5’10” Weight: 156 lbs.Eyes: Green Hair: Light Brown
History:Arnie Dilbert was a capable college student, but performed poorly due to the time he spent playing the role-playing game Monsters in Mazes with his few friends. Unhappy with his real life, Arnie began to immerse himself more and more into fantasy. He convinced his friends to act out their game characters’ exploits in a small cave system near their university. Annoyed by Arnie's increasingly demanding behavior, the others ended the session and left him alone in the cave.
Trying to find the exit, Arnie became lost. He later claimed to have found a hidden chamber where he discovered the large, crystalline Icosahedron of Ioum. This artifact obeyed his commands, giving him apparently magical powers, but whether by design or Arnie's own psychological quirks, it limited him to mimicking powers analogous to those wielded by a Monsters in Mazes referee.
Arnie, now calling himself the Dungeonmaster, used these powers to settle scores with his neglectful parents and former classmates before embarking on a criminal career. His modus operandi was to create a "dungeon" in the location the crime was to take place and force bystanders to achieve his goals for him, coercing them with monsters and traps of his making. At a comic book convention in Southern California, he attempted to force a group of costume contest participants to steal valuable memorabilia for him, but he was defeated by the second Rocket. Since that time, the Dungeonmaster considers her his archenemy, though Rocket does not reciprocate.

FNG Update - Hard Cover and in Color - Have pics?

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 23:25

Complete FNG is going to be a hardcover full color book. Looking for any color pictures of your Vietnam games and minis. Even those from other rules sets. Let me know at

Thanks, Ed

BTW - You'll get credit for pics and maybe more.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part III)

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 14:00

Pont Valentré

Thanks to everyone who chimed in with their thoughts on the submissions for the Robber’s Bridge adventure. Everyone contributed some great stuff! I would encourage everyone to recycle some of those ideas for your own adventures.

I’ve taken everyone’s feedback, incorporated some of my own editorial discretion, and brought it all together. There’s still time to change things, of course, so please share any feedback or ideas inspired by the content below. Let’s take the next steps in pulling this adventure together!

If you need to catch up:

Who Inhabited the adventure location originally? Who made it? Where was it? What happened to it?

The Jotnar Bridge is a marvel of a lost age, made by a forgotten people with knowledge of engineering far in excess of any humans in the north today. Some scholars who consider themselves experts in such things say it was created by the Ylfarings9See The First People, Middarmark, page 6. Others say it was the work of bergrisar10Mountain giants; see Of Trolls and Men, Middarmark, page 84 hailing from the Nidfjoll Mountains11See The Nidfjoll, Middarmark, page 19 to the west. The stony bones of a giant lay half in the icy waters of the Vimur River and half on the northern bank, the crown of its skull forming an island in the river beneath the bridge.

The graceful stone bridge once spanned the Vimur River, connecting the land of Vanskrdal with Vargstrond12See Vanskrdal and Vargstrond, Middarmark, page 23 and enabling trade between the two jarldoms. That ended 19 years ago, when Jarl Grima of Vargstrond, great uncle of the present jarl, Una the Cat13See Una the Cat, Jarl of Vargstrond, Middarmark, page 23, paid a band of mercenary dwarven sappers to slight the central span rather than allow the Gott Host to spill into Vargstrond. Survivors of the conquest of Vanskrdal still speak bitterly of the bridge’s destruction, which trapped many of the newly conquered people on the northern side of the river where they were forced into serfdom by the conquering Gotts.

What do the characters want to recover at the adventure location? Why would the PCs go there?

Bandits have occupied the northern tower of the slighted bridge and have been raiding the Gottmark (formerly Vanskrdal). They recently attacked the nearby Gott village of Saxatoft while its lord was away. They plundered and burned the manor and stole a precious gold buckle that is part of the Saxaling Clan’s regalia. The theft has damaged the Saxaling ættir, and the clan is desperate to get the artifact back.

A Viking Age buckle discovered in Ågård, Denmark

The bandits are using a chamber in the northern bridge tower as a vault to store their ill-gotten treasure.

Why has the adventure location not been plundered already?

Anything of value was taken when the bridge was slighted, or by looters who came along later. But the bandits have recently been filling the vault with their stolen treasure. The original builders created a hidden chamber below the waterline that serves as a prison for a murderous water spirit but holds a fortune in semi-precious stone.

Who or what inhabits the adventure location now?

Ostensibly the current occupants are Bjorning raiders. In fact, they are ‘gestir,’ agents sent by Jarl Una the Cat to harry her enemies north of the river and provide information about the Gotts’ preparation for war. The gestir consist of a handful of Bjorning warriors, a cleric from Jernkloster and possibly even a Bjorning magician.

Unknown to all, there is a secret passage beneath the waterline of the tower that leads to a hidden chamber within the giant’s skull. The bridge’s original builders trapped a nykr14A shape shifting water spirit within. The spirit once lured those who sought to cross the river to their deaths by drowning. The magic of the giant skull chamber has turned the spirit to stone in the form of an exquisite, life-sized lapis lazuli stallion. Anyone that enters the chamber will slowly begin to calcify into lapis lazuli themselves. Removing the stallion from its pedestal will break the enchantment upon the spirit.

It’s possible that the nykr can employ some of its enchanting music, even trapped in stone as it is.

Next Steps

Feel free to suggest changes or build upon what I’ve described above. But it’s also time to move forward. If anyone wants to take a stab at sketching a map of the northern tower, be my guest!

In the meantime, I have a couple of new questions for you.

How have the inhabitants altered the location to serve their needs?

Have the bandits made any changes? Have they dug new tunnels or installed hidden doors? Have they implemented any new defenses or a way of escaping to the southern side of the river if they are assaulted in force?

What traps or terrain features make navigating the adventure location difficult?

I’ve suggested a secret passage below the waterline that leads to a secret chamber in the giant skull. Is that passage flooded? Is there some other challenge to that passage? Have the bandits installed traps? Is there some trick to approaching the tower?

Please jump in with your thoughts. Start thinking about other problems and obstacles this adventure might present.

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