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D&D‘s Ongoing Updates and How a Priority Could Lead to New Core Books

DM David - Tue, 03/16/2021 - 11:07

The prior edition of Dungeons & Dragons, its fourth, welcomed too many players with a feel-bad moment. Eager new players would join a table with a character built from their new copy of their Player’s Handbook and learn the character was unplayable—full of errors created by fourth edition’s errata. The potential message: Your character is bad and you can’t use the book you just bought without embarrassing yourself.

The fourth-edition team strived to get rules right the first time, but they faced a relentless publishing schedule focused on releasing as many hardcovers as the market would bear, all packed with character options. To fix the inevitable missteps, the designers relied on players able to download errata. The game’s business strategy centered on online subscriptions to D&D Insider, so the finished rules existed on the internet, while the books attracted completists and folks who enjoyed reading the latest D&D lore from a comfy chair.

For fifth edition, the D&D team completely reverses this strategy, striving to avoid any changes that contradict text in print. In newer printings, wording gets an occasional change for clarity, but the game’s mechanics remain virtually unchanged. Surely this stability accounts for a measure of the newest edition’s success in winning new players.

To perfect new content before it reaches print, the D&D team relies on a slower release schedule and on letting players preview and test new game elements as Unearthed Arcana. Only the rare overpowered features that prove game breaking get tweaks. While the D&D team avoids errata, they feel comfortable assuming that players and dungeon masters can ignore feats, spells, and archetypes that don’t suit their game. If we find some spells annoying, then we can skip them.

Still, the D&D designers see the game’s flaws. The 12th printing of the fifth-edition Player’s Handbook includes some corrections. On rare occasions, the designers feel compelled to make functional changes to printed rules. For example, errata to Xanathar’s Guide to Everything changes the healing spirit spell from game altering to adequate.

Newer D&D books give the D&D team chances to improve on the Player’s Handbook without actually invalidating anything. Mainly the new books offer options that improve on the original versions. Players can still opt for the original, but the newer alternatives rank as stronger, easier, or just as a more flavorful realization of an archetype. So Xanathar’s Guide To Everything revisits the rules for downtime with a more evolved take, and Tasha’s Cauldon of Everything includes new beast master companions that strengthen the ranger archetype.

During the typical edition cycle of a roleplaying game, years of play expose flaws, while new supplements build a complexity that rewards obsessed players while deterring newcomers. But the D&D team’s careful release strategy has let the game attract new players when most RPGs—including past D&D editions—introduce a new edition. The rules foundation of fifth edition remains strong enough that even an enthusiast like me just names a couple of feats as the worst thing in the game. New editions fuel a surge of sales as a game’s existing fans replace their books, but they also lose players who choose not to leave their experience and old books behind.

Given the success of fifth edition, I suspect the D&D team would feel content keeping the lightly-edited Player’s Handbook in print for years to come. However, I predict that one change in emphasis will lead to a quicker revision. In an article on diversity, the team writes that in the six years since fifth edition’s release “making D&D as welcoming and inclusive as possible has moved to the forefront of our priorities.”

This new emphasis shows in Tasha’s Cauldon of Everything and the book’s options for customizing characters.

The original, 1974 D&D game avoided linking ability scores to a character’s race. Nearly 5 years later the game’s Advanced version added ability score penalties and bonuses for elves, dwarves, halflings, and half orcs. This change reinforced fantasy archetypes, but it also limited player freedom to create capable characters who defy stereotypes. Also, for many, such adjustments raise troubling reminders of how real ethnic groups can suffer from racist stereotypes that paint people as lacking certain aptitudes. Sure, elves, dwarves, and half-orcs are imaginary species, but they become relatable reflections of us in the game world. After all, imaginary halflings, I mean hobbits, just started as Tolkien’s stand-ins for ordinary folks.

Tasha’s Cauldon of Everything offers an alternative to ability score modifiers. “If you’d like your character to follow their own path, you may ignore your Ability Score Increase trait and assign ability score increases tailored to your character.” In a post previewing the change, the D&D team writes, “This option emphasizes that each person in the game is an individual with capabilities all their own.”

The old approach to races in the Player’s Handbook hinders the book as a welcome to D&D. I predict that by the end of 2022, Wizards of the Coast will release of new version of the Player’s Handbook that revisits the old ability score adjustments in favor of the more flexible version. To be clear, this will not represent a 6th edition, but merely a better welcome to the existing game. That book will join revised versions of the other core books by swapping some of the original elements of the edition with the improved alternatives that appeared in more recent books. Meanwhile, the revisited Monster Manual will make some of our more fearsome reflections in the game world clearly “as free as humans to decide who they are and what they do.” After all, isn’t that freedom to decide a lot of the reason we love D&D?

Related: 3 Posts that Need Updates Thanks to Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Thoughts on Zozer Game's Godstar & Opportunities For Plunder Among the Stars

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 03/16/2021 - 06:15
 Godstar rpg bothers the Hell out of my brain because it allows the Cepheus Engine rpg to create a unique setting & sector all of its own. This a very baroque sector steeped in it's own internal politics & to a certain degree it is fascinating because of its holy star. But whose the Devil then?!Is there hordes of desert dwellers who are proficient in dark magick waiting in the wings of Godstar Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Review & Commentary On Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan Campaign Setting By Terje Nordin For The Warriors of the Red Planet Rpg

Dark Corners of RPGing - Tue, 03/16/2021 - 02:31

 "Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan is a campaign setting for use with the Warriors of the Red Planet Roleplaying Game.

New character races: Mutant, Robot, Rogue Formian, Rogue Formiankin, Lizard Folk.

Rules for Psychic Combat and Super-Science Research.

Wyrd Stones, mysterious artefacts that let you manipulate the matrix of Matter, Energy, Time and Space.

18 new creatures including Spectral Walkers and Winged Squid.

Seven strange Alien Godlings.

Campaign map with 100 detailed hexes.

The city state of Yankara.

The Vaults of Illumination, a 22 room starting dungeon."

Its been over a week since Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan crossed the gaming table & now the piper is coming due. This Sword & planet campaign setting crams in forty eight pages what has been seen in other game systems drawn out over two hundred or more pages. The fact that  works with the Warriors of the Red Planet rpg & gives that rpg system an alternative setting to play in. There are so many good things about Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan  where to begin?!

Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan  evolved straight out of a home campaign morphed into a full on Sword & Planet adventure setting. And it brings the planetary heat straight out by giving us a straight in your face planetary setting out of the gate Xuhlan was the seat of a instellar  empire. But the Fall came hard; "Then came the Cataclysm. There are few facts but many myths and legends regarding the fall of the Primordials. Most accounts are vague and they seldom agree with one another, but many speak of apocalyptic wars, entire star systems being destroyed and a plague of madness forever eclipsing the minds of those few Primordials who survived. Zeenu (or Xanu or Zano depending on which source one consults), Devourer of Stars, glorious Conqueror of the Galaxies, Eternal Hegemon of the Primordials was deposed by his subjects and imprisoned in a black hole (or went into self-imposed exile outside the common space-time continuum, again depending on the source). Mankind, brought to Xuhlan by the Primordials to satisfy some playful whim or other, fought with many other sapients from across the universe for survival in the ruins left behind by their fallen masters. Millennia passed, empires rose, only to degenerate and crumble and come crashing down into barbarism again. Nearly a thousand years ago the surface of Xuhlan was under the hegemony of the Celestial Domain, the greatest human civilisation the planet has ever seen. But as the dynasty of the Aether Lords declined the domain was torn between the competing factions of the Guild of Noetic Engineers and the Ascended Masters of Unspace until the conflict escalated out of control. The human scientists had but learned fragments of the esoteric secrets mastered by the Primordials, but the destructive capacity of their technology was enough to extinguish the majority of human lives on the planet and lay their empire in ruin." 
The players start with several major races right out of the gate Mutant, Robot, Rogue Formian insect antmen, Rogue Formiankin former thralls of the insect men, Lizard Folk. Then mutations & psychic combat which is cleaned up a bit as well as being a real boon to Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan . There's superscience research as an add on system to Warriors of the Red Planet & its needed folks. There's really an orginal Dungeons & Dragons feel to Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan . Then we've got Wyrd Stones which are essentially 'infinity stones'  of Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan . But these stones are more in keeping with the Pulp magazine Sword & Planet stories that inspired this setting.  The Beastery is one of the best parts of Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan  because you get a real nice smattering of additional monsters. And if you're into the Warriors of the Red Planet rpg's weird monsters these are some fantastic creatures. 

The world of Xuhlan is straight up Pulp goodness right from the get go as you get into the hex crawl of the world setting with over a hundred encounters. The cartography is very well done. And this blends right into the city state of Yankara. And there's even a starting adventure right in  Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan called The Vaults of Illumination. Theres 22 rooms & its all set ready to go play! 
Is there any downsides to Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan ?! Honestly no in my humble opinion. You've got everything you need to really blow the doors in for an original B/X or original Dungeons & Dragons Sword & Planet campaign. 
Gotta say that in addition to Warriors of the Red Planet Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan would also work as an excellent setting to BX Mars. All of the material in  Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan  can easily bolt on to BX Mars so that the players & DM have an additional world setting to play with. 

And this is really one of the strengths of Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan. The fact that it can easily be adapted to any number of OSR systems. For example using Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan  with Adventurer,Conqueror, King's Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu allows the DM to bring another instellar planetary setting into their ACK's campaigns. 

And this interstellar planet setting could be easily used as a weird science destination for Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg or as a Carcosa subsetting. Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan  does takes its ques from planetary romance, Pulps, & Sword & Planet Science Fantasy. The sum here is far greater then the parts as Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan  stands on its own assumptions. 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cha'alt / Godbound rpg Session Report - Bite of the Crocodile God

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 03/15/2021 - 18:15
 Over the weekend there's been a rash of interest in our  Godbound/Cha'alt campaign that's been on going for the past two years. And to a certain degree there's been movement on a faction that wasn't expected & that's the Greco Roman version of Sebek. This version of the god appeared in Imagine issue#16 back in July of '85. Why do I say Greco Roman?! Because of the fact that ancient city of Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Farewell to Magic, A brief essay on the economics of a fantasy setting.

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 03/15/2021 - 13:32

 In my previous post, I talked about how resolved the issue of how to price real estate for when my players want to buy not build. Along with sharing it here, I posted links on facebook and other chat groups I frequent. 

One poster posted an interesting comment about the lack of profit motive my post implied. One part stood out as a reminder of how I view the Majestic Fantasy Realms.

Without any profit there is no growth and they would stay in the Middle Ages forever.

Over the decades, even before the internet, sometime I got into debates over how a fantasy setting would work, especially with my friends who knew how I ran the Majestic Wilderlands. One thread of the conversation was the impact of magic. Some who I talked to believe that magic would guarantee prosperity, create what we would now call a post scarcity society.  

My counterpoint, that the Industrial Revolution wasn't just about about technology but also ideas of how people can organize themselves or conduct business with each other. Without those idea, all what would happen with magic is the lives of an elite few would get better while the rest of the populace would have marginally better lives like the introduction of the horse collar allow formally difficult to cultivate lands to be brought under the plow to grow food. I usually pegged the average effect of magic at 20% better.

But it was just a guess based on instinct on what I read about history.

Then a few years back, I read a book that I felt gave my opinion a little more weight. 

It called a Farewell to Alms: A brief economic history of the world. 

The thesis as far as my post goes, is that prior to the industrial revolution. Improvements in technology or society only resulted in a temporary increase in prosperity. With more food and better living condition, the birth rate rose. Within in a handful of generations, the population grew to the point where living conditions were no better than before, except now there are more people. 

One main reason is that the pace of technological and society productivity prior to the industrial age could not keep pace with the birth rate except in brief burst. Like the introduction of the horse collar allowed areas with thick heavy soils to be cultivated easily greatly expanding where crops could be grown.

In this regard magic is no different than technology. The spread of using magic throughout a culture would bring about a temporary prosperity, which will bring about an increase in birth rate, which over time would bring everything back to the way it was except now there are more people.

That is until conditions are such that ideas, technology, (and magic since we are talking fantasy) come together to form an industrial magical revolution. Where productivity increases outstrip birth rate for decades and centuries.

As I been saying for years to friends, the Majestic Fantasy Realms is set in the time period before all that happens. But it nice that my guess has better foundation in fact. 

It is a good book and I recommend it highly. It also goes into why the first industrial revolution happen which may provide inspiration for a different kind of fantasy campaign set during that time. If that interest you I recommend getting Susanna Clark's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. A story of English magic set during the Napoleonic Wars. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Assault on Mistrunner Village, D&D adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 03/15/2021 - 11:37
By Ben Gibson Coldlight Press OSR/5e/Pathfinder Level 2

The thunder of the falls is nearly deafening; the mist is nearly blinding. Even so, your mules seem cheerful as they pick their way up the narrow stone path. Another turn around the canyon, and before you stretch the great Mistrun Falls. It’s a breathtaking sight. But out of the houses’ windows, there is smoke curling. And over the roar of the falls suddenly you hear screams.

This 46 page adventure features about four pages detailing around twenty or so locations in a cliffside village with a thundering waterfall in it, that has been attacked by bandits. It is, essentially, a two-page adventure with a lot of stuff like battle maps, pre-gens, paper minis and the like. It uses its single page of room descriptions as well as is possible given that limitation, fighting above its weight class.

While strolling about on your way to somewhere you come across a small village of a few houses, built up the cliffside on either side of a waterfall, it splitting the cliffside village in half. “How quaint!” you say to each other. As you get closer some dudes on the right hand side start taking pot shots at you will some bows, while a door at the base on the left side opens with some villagers urging the characters to get inside with them before they get shot. The village is vertical, so stairs, or one sort or another, lead up from the ceiling of one room to the floor of another, with two bridges across to the other side. Lurking in the various rooms are things to discover, but, this is primarily an assault mission with perhaps some stealth. As the first room tells us: “This humid little room is packed with mules, women, and children, they would flee if they could but the archers stop them. Weeping, some of the adults beg the players for help.”

And that room description is a pretty good example of what this an above average adventure, even given it’s “one map page and one page of room keys” design. Humid. Little. Packed with bodies of mules, women, and children. No doubt very loud, chaotic, and smelly, is what that description says to me, as the DM. That’s what happens when you’ve written a good description. The DMs mind leads to other things. Implications are explored. The brain fills things in. The description is more than the sum of the words presented on the page. You automatically fill things in. Less is more. Plus, it’s easier to scan and run at the table! Amazing! The NPC descriptions are the same, using that little “three keywords” trick I like so much (sometimes two keywords.) Villagers are scared, Angry. Elder Folga is despairing, confused and resigned. Elder Wystle is Gruff, ashamed, and aggressive. You get a sense on how to run them, and run them WELL, with just a couple of words. No need for an entire paragraph to have to dig the fuck through while running it at the table. It’s all you need, right there. And it’s oriented towards play. Not just some bullshit words, but words that will lead to interesting play. Again, the DM’s mind leaps to fill in things and contort it to make some play.

The rooms here are not dungeon rooms. There are not really puzzles to solve. This is an assault on the bandits and maybe some stealth thrown in. The room descriptions support this. In one room there’s some bandits, keeping watch over the cliffside. But … there’s a wounded warrior from the village, hiding in a pile of blankets. You can imagine the party, a fight breaking out, the wounded warrior grabbing a bandit leg, or stabbing one, at some moment. SO the rooms are designed to kind of support this sort of assault style play, adding some freshness to what could otherwise become monotonous combat.

Oh, and then there’s village Elder FuckWit. He’s gone in to the cave, tha the waterfall comes out of, to summon the villages protectors to kill the bandits. Stone guardian statues. These have stats as gargoyles WHICH MAKES PERFECT SENSE! So, crazy old village dude goes off to summon mythical protectors, who ALSO end up showing up at opportune (inopportune?) times to kill everyone in sight and are especially fond of knocking people off of precarious spots and down the thundering waterfall, bandit, player, and villager alike. Nice touch with this part. 

The map here is interesting, with its verticality. That does, however, create a some issues with comprehension. There are some parts of the design that are tough to figure out where things lead. Stairs up and down are generally ok, but there are little rooms on the map art that are not obvious which they are, in the 2d, or where a certain area leads on the leads art rendering on the “normal” 2d map. And that mouth of the Waterfall. Oof!

That’s pretty light criticism though.

It’s an adventure designed around a single session. A single session of an RPG probably takes just a couple of pages to describe. MOST adventures drag that out to a bajillion pages of content. Ben focuses in. You get a couple of pages (one of maps, one of keyed locations) with a coupe of support pages like background and notes. That’s about the right size for a single session in what is a pretty much straight forward assault with some sneaking about between assaults. A one night assault adventure? Yeah, it should be short. And it is. I might suggest that the product description could be oriented a little more towards “four pages of adventure and a lot of pregens, maps, etc”, while emphasizing the “ready to run!” aspect, but, yeah, this is what you need for an adventure.I might call it a very journeyman effort. Not gonna be flashy, but gonna get the job done.

This is Pay What you Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1. The preview shows you the four pages of actual adventure content, so its a good preview. Take a look at that map and those keys. Nice job with them, eh?


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Re-post: About Companionship in Marriage

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 03/15/2021 - 11:00

He’s nearly a hundred years old and he has a girlfriend. They don’t go on trips together; they don’t kiss much; but they meet regularly to enjoy each other’s company. It’s definitely a mellowed version of the male-female attraction God has built into humanity.

And this kind of relationship is not uncommon. I recall another elderly couple from several years ago. Both had earlier lost a life’s mate. Both were frail, but they held hands as they walked, and they smiled easily at each other. No marriage was in the offing, but the charm of it all warmed the hearts of their friends.

The attraction between a man and a woman is one of life’s wonders. It is a bond that can sustain a relationship through all of life’s seasons for a lifetime companionship. It is deeper and even more enduring than the sexual bond that seals the union — as strong as that bond is.

This companionship aspect isn’t always fully perceived by us when we are young. We are keenly aware of the sexual energies with which God has endowed us, and these are a compelling reality. But is there more?

Genesis 2 closes the story of Adam and Eve with this editorial word: “… a man will leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

“One flesh” implies more than sexual union. At the outset of the story God gives his reason for providing Adam a suitable helper: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (2:18). The sexual differentiation (male/female) God was promising in that moment was first for companionship. It was to be an antidote to Adam’s loneliness.

The issue of companionship must surely be a major reason the Scriptures forbid the marriage of believers to unbelievers. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers,” Paul wrote the Corinthian Christians (2 Corinthians 6:14). He asks, “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (6:15b). The Scriptures always call us to loyalty to the Lord first. But for those who marry, they also call us to companionship in the Lord.

Who of us has not seen a young wife sit alone in church Sunday after Sunday? Her husband is off fishing or riding his motorcycle or golfing. Romance may have drawn them together, a lavish wedding may have been celebrated, but the spiritual union a marriage should provide is missing.

On the other hand, who of us has not known a couple whose shared love for the Lord enhanced every other aspect of their love? I remember leading a young man to faith in Christ at his dining room table. Days later his wife told me, “I loved him before but now I love him so much I could hug him to pieces.” The missing element, union in Christ, had been added. Hallelujah!

One of the greatest testimonies the church can give to a secular world — a world in which too many marriages suffer from weak or defective bonds — is the presence of radiant Christian married couples. Couples of all ages can witness to the world the riches of a companionship rooted in shared love for Christ. Didn’t Jesus say to his disciples, “You are the light of the world”?

Photo credit: renee. (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds


Looking For Group - Mon, 03/15/2021 - 04:00

The post 1487 appeared first on Looking For Group.

Categories: Web Comics

ZZ7729 The A.I. Entity Puppet Master Behind The Curtain In The Talon Sector & Beyond For The Cepheus Engine rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 03/15/2021 - 03:24
 So tonight zipping through Effing Cool Miniatures page here & after watching an interview with John Popson. There's a great miniature for an enforcer bot that's perfect for my game's big bad A.I. whose straight out of Cepheus Atom rpg.  The Martouk Experimentation & Research corporation is rumored to be run by an A.I. from before the Fall of Mankind called ZZ7729. ZZ7729 is a full equipped war Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'Playing Out In The Rocks' Cepheus Engine Rpg Session Report - Bought & Paid For With a Bullet Back Up..

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 03/14/2021 - 20:58
 After getting out of medical the PC's are put back into general population of their underground prison. The PC's have been put to work assembling a  Martian commerical  star ship fleet &  compendents in tele VR through worker bots. The star craft are The Harbinger series of star ship  from Zozer Games Crew Expendable. So this session report picks up right were the last session left off with the Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[CAMPAIGN JOURNAL + STUFF] The Infernal Wedding (Helvéczia Campaign Journal and Mini-Adventure)

Beyond Fomalhaut - Sun, 03/14/2021 - 18:12

[This play report covers two sessions of our most recent adventure played with the forthcoming Helvéczia RPG. Like the previous similar post on this blog, the Capuchin, an infamous brigand leader, makes his appearance – but in different circumstances than the last time, and to an entirely new stable of characters. This excerpt goes more deeply into the magical and supernatural side of Helvéczia, and features a larger cast of characters, as well as a short dungeon expedition. There will be a more formal announcement with a preview of the game’s introductory chapter (and a few more things), but this introduction is as good as any.
Courtesy of the author, Istvan Boldog-Bernad, I have provided a transcription of his GM notes in a separate post: these are, of course, minimal notes (which Istvan is a master of spinning into much larger adventures), but they should serve to illustrate what follows below.

Once again, unlike the game default, this campaign takes place in an alternate Catalonia, in the year 1697. The Catalonian Republic is now a distant memory, but ruins from the time of its suppression dot the countryside. Prince Franco’s forces, dispatched by the court in Madrid, rule the coastal cities with an iron hand, while the Saint Hernandad Society and the Inquisition scour the land looking for rebels and heretics. Off the main roads, however, the law is weak, and the grip of power very tenuous. Bandits, monsters, revolutionaries, hermits and much stranger beings prowl the forests and mountains, and only good steel and a brace of pistols can guarantee survival…]

Exactly two months have passed since three adventurers routed the rapacious bandit leader and defrocked clergyman, the Capuchin, and saved the damsel he had wanted to marry in the mockery of a wedding ceremony. Our company has changed much in these times: Jean-Fado de Béziers had retired to the small lakeside town of Lagoscoro with a pretty widow, and the cheerful Little Juan Cordial had joined his brother’s band of highwaymen and freedom fighters, while losing Rodrigo Cordial, his oldest, Franciscan brother. Two more 6th level characters (the highest in Helvéczia) followed them: Farkas Cserei, the Transylvanian scholar had decided to return to his homeland, and Santiago, the revenge-obsessed Aztec, had forgiven his defeated mortal enemy, and disappeared from Migalloc (although some might suspect a pretty Gypsy girl had played a role in this decision).  It was time for Álvar Díaz Garcia Vega de Valencia y Vivar, who has since claimed the sword of El Cid, and become the greatest swordsman of Catalonia, to go his own way. Leaving the great city of Migalloc, he parted from his companions, and rode towards the estate of Don Santiago Serrano, where the cruel aristocrat was known to keep slaves captured from the mountain villages.

The others pressed on towards the ranges of the Picos del Bosque, where they had heard rumours of an enchanted garden belonging to the mythical Hesperides. Diminished in numbers, the company now included:

  • Father Taddeo Previti, 5th level Italian Cleric, and a member of the Holy Inquisition (yours truly);
  • Gérard Pradas, 6th level Occitan Student, now in possession of the game’s most formidable destructive spell, as well as an intelligent giant parrot calling himself Jago, and a nest’s worth of giant raven hatchlings (captured way back after the adventure with the Capuchin);
  • Guiellmo Gallardo de Barcino, 1st/2nd level Catalan Duellist/Student, a freethinker and pamphleteer recently returning from Engeland;
  • Rupert van den Rosenfluyt, 3rd level Dutch Vagabond 3, a wandering botanist looking for rare cultivars;
  • Benito Cortizo de Soto, 2nd level Gallego Vagabond 2, a low-born scoundrel; and
  • Luís Bartolomeu Lopes de Coimbra, 2nd level Portuguese Vagabond, a sailor following a mysterious treasure map.

Into the Picos del Bosque

On the forest trail, the company found a camp of loggers clearing the forest. Inquiring about the way to Altinadea, their intended destination, a woman stirring an enormous cauldron of soup pointed them north: the village would be to the north-west, but just a little way to the north, there would also be closer shelter: the cloister of Saint Agnes. Father Taddeo immediately seized on the opportunity, and guided the group towards the place, where they might find a place to rest, and the father might learn useful spells. By mid-afternoon, they had spotted a walled enclosure with vegetable gardens, side-buildings, and a central structure. A dozen robed monks were outside in the fields, offering friendly greetings. They were not nuns, as expected, but brothers; and they welcomed the travellers, asking them to leave their mounts at the stables before joining them in prayer.

Father Taddeo happily led Eusebio, his donkey, to a manger, and returned to the brothers who were already explaining the way to Altinadea to his companions.

“¡Manos arriba! Hands in the air! You are now the prisoners of the Capuchin!one of the monks shouted, levelling a blunderbuss at the party, while a heavy-set, greying man in monks’ robes strode forward with something that had previously seemed a rake, but was actually a concealed Lucerne hammer. Multiple guns, and as many swords, were pointed at the party. The Capuchin looked at the guests before him very carefully, but he recognised no one, especially not those who had previously spoiled his wedding. Unfortunately for the brigands, this was a party of six heavily armed and freshly rested adventurers aching for a fight, and soon found themselves outclassed. They fled in several directions; and the Capuchin shamefully beat a hasty retreat, catching a bullet in his cuirass, and riding off on his horse amidst curses and invective. The garden was entirely deserted.

From the large building emerged two dozen nuns, who had been under siege from the concealed brigands just when the newcomers arrived. Worse, one of them, Sister Agnes, had disappeared. She was known to often wander off and seek out an abandoned old house to the east for meditation, and perhaps she was still there. If the fleeing bandits would get their hands on her, the consequences would be terrible. The nuns also recommended caution, as there was rumoured to be a large black dog living in the area, which came straight from Hell – and would drag its victims down with it. Since sunset was approaching, time was of the essence: the eastern mountain trail too narrow and treacherous for horses, the company proceeded on foot through the thickets and forests.


The ruined house was found by nightfall: it was dark inside, and there were signs of long abandonment. A lonely owl sat ominously on a nearby tree branch. Seeing no light but wary of an ambush, they approached and called out for those inside to come out; but as there was no answer, they entered the ramshackle building. A small eerie light illuminated the only room: a transparent, sad old man. Father Taddeo raised, then lowered his cross: the apparition was not hostile. Indeed, the spirit introduced himself as a Hermit who had lived in this small house, but receiving no proper rites, could not go on to Heaven, and was stuck wandering this world. Worse, the devil had stolen away his physical body, making burial impossible. After questioning him further, it turned out the spirit had seen Sister Agnes: and she, too, had just been seized by devils, and taken down to Hell. Worse, she had drawn the interest of none other but Don García Deselvado, one of the aristocrats of the infernal court, and the second highest-ranked in Catalonia – below the mighty Don D himself! Don García had decided to marry the pretty Agnes, and the wedding was set for tonight: all manner of guests would present themselves at the high occasion.

“And how might we follow in their tracks and save the worthy sister?” Gérard inquired.

“The black dog runs at night! Go you to the crossroads, and follow if you dare!” spoke the apparition.

“Thank you, oh noble spirit. We will try to recover your body as well.”

“Just remember! He who goes to a wedding, should bring wedding presents!” whispered the pale lips.

The Black Dog Runs at NightReturning to the crossroads the company had recently passed on their way to the abandoned house, they sat down on the nearby rocks and waited. This was a strange place, for their trail was narrow, and the one crossing it just seemed to disappear in both directions after a short while. Hours passed and an unnatural cold settled on the Picos del Bosque. From the dark woods came a blood-curdling howl, and an enormous hound the size of a calf appeared from between the branches. The hound looked over the characters with its bloodshot eyes and growled; then turned and slowly ran towards the end of the crossroads.

“Don’t lose it!” whispered Rupert van den Rosenfluyt, and broke into a jog. They entered the forest on the trail of the beast, through branch and bush, and passed a dark opening leading underground. Now they were beneath the earth, and lit lanterns to see the cavern descend downwards, their guide gone. There was a thick smell in the air, and the walls were dark with soot. Here and there, sulphurous gasses hissed from cracks in the walls. The black dog had not gone far, in fact: pressing on, they found themselves before a pair of enormous wooden gates. The hound had settled itself on a large pile of skeletal remains, and was busy gnawing on an enormous, juicy bone.

“Well, here we are – he gates of Hell. Are we sure we want to pay a visit?”

“Very sure. Who is a bad boy?”

The dog growled, but gave them no further heed. They opened the heavy portals, which swung outwards to let out billowing smoke and the stench of sulphur. They entered, and the gates closed behind them, to reveal a gallery of vividly painted frescoes and plush couches. If this was indeed Hell, it was a remarkably comfy part of it.

The Church of HELL

On examination, the frescoes proved to be tantalisings depiction of the seven cardinal sins. Benito and Luís were lost in the study of two particularly fetching ones (having failed their Temptation saving throws), and had to be dragged onwards. The next chamber was an anteroom. Stairs descended downwards, while from forward came the sounds of music of merrymaking through a heavy door. Opening it just a crack, Benito Cortizo spied a room with about a dozen thin, spindly apparitions of smoke resembling small devils, dancing to the tunes of unseen musicians. Another door lead further on. After short discussion, Father Taddeo suggested that Sister Agnes would probably be kept imprisoned, and she might be found deeper down. Taking the stairs, they found themselves in a small baptismal chapel, but it was a most unwholesome place: it was built upside down, with pews and a font of dark water on the ceiling, and tiny baskets hanging from ropes. There was a most unholy reek here.

“The water does not pour down from the font! It is an unholy magic!” proclaimed Father Taddeo. “If we sanctify it with holy water and good incense, the wedding may come to a bad end if it starts at all. Help me stand on your shoulders so I can reach this...”

“I do not like those baskets. We will stand ready with guns drawn.”

It is upside down, and EVIL!The elderly father, blessed by vigour despite his advanced years (and 18 Dexterity!), climbed and reached towards the dark liquid with a vial of holy water. There was a loud *SCHLURP* as the “water”, a heavy gelatinous mass fell on the three characters standing beneath. None were engulfed, and Don Guillelmo fought valiantly, but the deadly pudding proved very strong, multiple characters were badly wounded, and the company decided to flee back to the anteroom instead of fighting it in this dead end.

“I have a plan,” said Gérard Pradas. “I am good at calligraphy: we will forge a letter of introduction to Don Deselvado from... the arch-devil of Lust? Do you know a suitable name, Father?”

“That would be Belphégor.”

“Splendid! Belphégor will wish the newlyweds good fortune, and recommend that they consummate their wedding night in the baptismal chapel, an auspicious sign for strong offspring. We can turn that to our advantage, or at least delay the festivities.”

They proceeded forward to the dancing room, carefully covering their ears to defend from some sort of devilish music. The wispy smoke-devils were dancing happily, and invited the wedding guests to join them. They didn’t know anything useful, and weren’t interested in their letter, so the characters tried passing through the dance floor, but the devil spirits were very ardent, and tried to drag them into their wild frolic. Benito and Luís failed to save vs. Temptation, and joined. A melee ensued to drag them away and destroy the devils; they were dispatched, but Luís lay dead on the floor, his heart stopped due to the heavy dancing. Searching the room, there was still no trace of musicians, but someone had carelessly left a decorative walking stick worth 7 golden Escudos in a corner, as well as a lost pouch with 30 copper Maravedi, and 90 silver Reals. Luís also had a treasure map on his person, which Don Guillelmo dutifully pocketed.

The next door was quiet, and the opposite side revealed a room piled with a mouth-watering feast of juicy meats, piled fruits of known and unknown varieties, and bottles of the most noble Tokaj wines – well known for their curative and invigorating properties. [And among the Habsburgs, the wine of wedding nights!] Spiral stairs descended downwards, and from a door further on came arguing voices. On more careful scrutiny, the bottles of Tokaj were found to be tampered with, and filled not with wine at all, but piss.

“Blasphemy! Now I really believe we are in hell!” exclaimed Father Taddeo. [This is where session one ended.]

Listening through the keyhole of the next door, Rupert van den Rosenfluyt heard the boisterous laughter of three card players.


“Devil take you, you cheated!”

“It was a twenty-one!”

“You deal!”

“I hereby wager the molar of Judas!”

“That’s a fake too! Put up the real money!”

Rupert shrugged and opened the door, while Father Previti melted into the shadows. The room held a card table, around which two devils were playing cards with a manacled prisoner for a large sum of coinage. The devils were friendly enough, and encouraged anyone to sit down and play a hand. Their prisoner slid to the side and hurriedly said, “Very good, and I liked the game too! But I shall be going now, and let these fine gentlemen take a seat.”

“Wait just now! You are not going anywhere. You have not wagered your soul yet!”

Father Taddeo had heard enough. Someone’s salvation was at risk! He exclaimed from behind the door:

“Do you know what you are not expecting?”

The devils shrugged dumbfounded, then one hollered back: “Your mother!”

“Yeah, your mother!”

“Incorrect answer. The Italian Inquisition, that’s what! In nomine Patris et Fili et Spiritus Sancti!” yelled the father, charging the card players with his heavy staff. A short melee developed, and the devils found themselves completely outclassed and surrounded. One tried to flee, but was blocked by Father Taddeo and Don Guillelmo, and seeing this, they both surrendered. The miscreants proved slippery and tried to strike a bargain, but finally, when the father promised he would baptise both of them if they didn’t confess, they explained that the wedding was taking place downstairs, down in the main chapel.

“Now give back the money to that poor man you have dispossessed,” demanded the inquisitor.

“That’s robbery! It is our money, we swear!” they protested to no effect, as their winnings, were transferred at gunpoint to the company’s purses, half to the freed captive, and half split among the others. Two bottles of real Tokaji were also liberated; Don Guillelmo quickly took one. With this, the devils were ordeed to stay in the room, and Benito dutifully jammed the lock with some bent cutlery. Rupert unlocked the manacles of the former prisoner, who introduced himself as Miguel – he had just been playing cards at the inn in a far-away town in his native Castilia, and found himself in this room after blacking out from too much wine. The company was whole once again.

Miguel the Gambler

Descending a deep set of spiral stairs, they arrived at a corridor running left and right. From the right came cacophonic organ music, and there seemed to be further steps down; the other direction was more quiet, with occasional creaks or squeaks.

“The chapel is that way,” noted Rupert, leading by example. Down the stairs, they came to an anteroom again, with a very large double wooden gate. All kinds of blasphemous statues were carved on the inverted portal (as everything is the opposite in Hell), and from beyond came the music and the sounds of backwards Latin preaching. Very quietly, they opened the door, and peered in, unnoticed by the wedding guests.

The Infernal Wedding

This was a large, dark gothic hall, with statues of Judas, some ram-headed demon, and other illustrious evildoers. The congregation, a ragged host of miscreants and knaves, had their backs turned, and the adventurers quickly noticed the Capuchin and his surviving men – the brigand leader was in high spirits, loudly sharing tasteless jokes about the wedding night. On two sides of an altar, two grinning devils played pranks and sommersaults, while before it stood the bride and groom: the crying Sister Agnes, and a finely dressed, bespectacled arch-devil licking his lips in anticipation – Don García Deselvado! The don seemed to be playing a puppet with his left hand while holding the nun with his right, and the purpose of the strange act was soon clear: the priest, a lifeless old corpse reciting a litany of backwards Latin, was visibly controlled by several strings dangling from the ceiling.

Don García DeselvadoQuickly taking stock of the situation, everyone occupied their places. Father Taddeo cast the Stumble spell on the entrance threshold to cover their flight, then crept in like a shadow, hiding behind the statue of Judas, and looking around until he found the source of the organ music – a balcony reached by some spiral stairs – that rare Heavenly Choir spell he kept in mind might come in handy. Don Guillelmo and Benito hid close to the portal, readying guns, while Gérard retrieved something from his pockets. Miguel, taking the forged letter of introduction, stepped forward, and the devils by the altar immediately noticed him, beckoning to the new guest. Swallowing, Miguel stepped forward, and bowed before Don Deselvado, presenting the letter. The don nodded and pocketed the letter.

“It is from Don Belphégor, my Lord, and it concerns your wedding night! Aren’t you going to read it?” Miguel inquired.

Don Deselvado cast an irritated glance at the Spaniard, but relented, and, continuing his puppetry, handed Sister Agnes to the newcomer for a moment while unrolling the parchment. He scanned the message quickly, then spoke: “That’s all good. Give him some drink for his troubles.”

The two devils made Miguel chug a large bottle of brandy, gaily explaining: “Oh, this is Hell, amigo! We do everything backwards. The happy wedding has already been consummated!”

Miguel, coughing from the alcohol, glanced back at the portal, and showed a quick sign. He lunged forward, seizing Sister Agnes and yanking her on the floor as a volley of fire cut across the temple. Don Deselvado was hit with a bullet from Benito’s gun, but remained standing, and held on to his half of the nun. Father Taddeo, who had meanwhile snuck up to the organist’s nest and positioned himself behind him, seized the hapless devil and hurled him down from the balcony, breaking his neck on the stone floor. Don Deselvado tried to pull Agnes back, rolling a very high score, but Miguel rolled a natural 20, and jumped with her towards a northern archway, leading to an upwards staircase. All Hell broke loose in the Church of Hell, and Gérard Pradas chose this moment to throw the egg of a black rooster, procured through unholy practices and fermented for weeks in manure and sulphur, at the congregation, while speaking Latin words. The Fireball detonated in the midst of the agitated wedding guests. Don Deselvado was hurled back but mostly unhurt, but the Capuchin was torn limb from limb along with his men, and the surrounding revellers and the two sommersaulting devils. Further detonations came from the Capuchin’s grenades, and there was a tremendous racking sound as the ceiling shook and caved in, burying the centre of the church, and separating the company.

Father Taddeo stood up, still reeling. From the northern door came Miguel. Don Deselvado, seeing he was in peril, fled through a door to the west, abandoning the stunned Agnese. Knowing that raising the alarms would not do them much good, Father Taddeo reached for the last resort: his trusty Bible, which he opened at a random passage, and read aloud:

“Book of Ruth, 4:4! ‘No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, “Come over, friend; sit down here.” And he went over and sat down. Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here”; so they sat down.”

To his horror, Don Deselvado found himself unable to move, compelled by the Good Book to stay where he was. Father Taddeo advanced with an ugly look in his eyes.

“Don García Deselvado, for your deeds against this innocent sister, I shall do the worst thing to you that I can inflict upon you. I shall baptise you.” and he took out the holy water, the incense, and raised his Bible. Don Deselvado emitted a pitiful cry, and pleaded for mercy, offering vast riches and infernal powers, but the father baptised him, and the arch-devil was burned into a pile of ashes.


Safe PuzzleThe company was divided by the collapsed rubble, and it would have taken several hours to dig through, an appalling prospect. It was decided that each half would try to return to the surface through some way, and rejoin when possible. Rupert, Don Guillelmo, Benito and Gérard had a known route, but before the Father, the shaken and badly shocked Sister Agnes, and Miguel, there were only unknown passages. Miguel scouted ahead while Father Taddeo comforted Agnes as he could, using his healing to heal her wounds, and the last of a blessed relic, the handkerchief of Saint Lucia, to wipe her brow. Sister Agnes somewhat regained her faculties. Miguel returned: he had found a rich bedroom with Don Deselvado’s giant portrait hiding a puzzle safe he could not crack, but no way forward. The passage went on, but was too dark without a light source. After a brief discussion, they decided to try the spiral stairs leading up from the church. Deducing that the dead, strangely mummified body of the priest controlled by the Don had once belonged to the Hermit, they carried the cadaver with them.

Meanwhile, the larger part of the company retraced their steps to the feasting room, still hearing the devilish card-players from behind the door, guessing whether it was safe to come out. By approximate measures, the baptismal chapel was somewhere above the Church of Hell – might there be a secret door they had overlooked while fleeing from the pudding? They returned, hoping the monster has returned to the font on the ceiling. Unfortunately, it did not: it pounced on the characters, and with one slurping sound, swallowed Gérard Pradas, who was now struggling mightily to get it off with his remaining spells before getting devoured. A secret door opened, and Father Taddeo, Sister Agnes, and Miguel stepped into the chapel, joining the melee.

“Nobody expects the Italian Inquisition! Now begone, you infernal aspic!” the Father tried to exorcise [turn] the pudding, to no effect. The fight continued, and even Sister Agnes joined in with a torch to avenge the wrongs done to her. The gelatinous horror was defeated, the gambler Miguel striking the last blow. Rupert van den Rosenfluyt was unconscious, and the others were badly wounded, Gérard at a single hit point. Worse, the father’s attempts at medicine almost ended up killing Gérard, who passed out from the pain, and was ony saved by the last healing spell, while Rupert had to be resusciated with a swig of Tokaj wine.

There was one last challenge before leaving this hellish place. The outside gate was guarded by the Black Dog, and obviously, it would not allow them to pass outside as easily as inside. Rupert had brought a large bone from the feasting table, while Father Taddeo again reached for his Bible. Unfortunately, the growling hound did not care for the scrap of old meat, and when the Bible was opened to a New Testament verse, the passage had no relevance for the situation. The Black Dog stood up and attacked, while Don Guillelmo heroically tried to hold it back. It breathed a cone of fire, and while none died, Gérard was at -4 Hp again (one shy of death), and everyone was badly hurt. Miguel muttered a curse and threw the mummified body of the Hermit at the creature: “Go chew on this!” He turned and fled with Gérard on his strong back, quickly followed by Father Taddeo, and then the others, Don Guillelmo being the last to head for the surface...


EPILOGUE: Returning to the Cloister of Saint Agnes, the nuns were overjoyed to see the return of their lost Sister, thanking the adventurers profusely. They, in turn, decided to stay until Sunday, and enjoy the hospitality. Father Taddeocontinued with his doctoral work, “A Most Useful Treatise on Deviltry & Other Sins, with Practical Applications towards their Expurgation Through the Element of Surprise”. He also gained easy permission to memorise the spells found at the cloister: from the first level, Bless and The Bountiful Herbarist; and from the second, Protective Circle and Withdraw Poison. Rupert van den Rosenfluyt and Gérard Pradas, who found their adventure a little too virtuous, tried to pick up a few comelier nuns with honeyed words and roguish charm, in which Rupert easily beat his rival for the attentions of one Sister Margarethe. “And that is how we do it with your colonies, too,” remarked the crafty Dutchman, which only shows us the wickedness of Godless Calvinism.

Watch out, sin!As for Miguel Hernandez, the freshly freed gambler, he was soon at the card table again with Gérard and Don Guillelmo. Noting the sinful activity, Father Previti watched it for a while, then asked if he could join in memory of his young days at Seminary. The stakes were high – two golden Escudos each, winner takes it all. To everyone’s surprise, in a company of professional card sharks and scoundrels, the elderly inquisitor came out on top, sweeping 8 Escudos into his purse – a nice sum to finance the publication of his doctoral theses. Was it blind luck? [A natural 20] That ineffable Italian magic? [Indeed, Italians are lucky at dice and cards, receiving +2 on their Gambling rolls.] Or was Father Previti’s 18 Dexterity at play? On this matter, the angels are stubbornly silent. We can only say that on Monday, the 8th of May Anno Domini 1697, the company was mounted again, riding northwest towards the mountain village of Valfogona, a place known for a ruined mill, a few abandoned manor houses, and the fiendish Comte Arnau, whose horse was known to eat the odd peasant, and who had infamous assembled a collection of kidnapped wives.


Designer commentary: This long session report is a fairly an accurate recapitulation of what Helvéczia intends to deliver: fast-paced, colourful, and hazardous adventures in a fantastic paraphrasis of historical Europe, drawing liberally from swashbuckling stories, odd legends, folk tales, and modern fantasy alike. It is not a serious study in historiography, nor an exercise in physical or social realism. Instead of grimdark – a tone that I have long felt to be creatively exhausted – its tone mixes picaresque adventure, romance, low comedy and a grotesque element. It does not shy away from the dark side of late 17th century Europe, but it is not a catalogue of atrocities; rather, it is a celebration of a certain time and its people. As such, it has a touch of the strange and alien: it is firmly rooted in the pre-Enlightment mindset, of deeply held religious conviction, military virtue and obstinately held tradition, but also relentless social climbing, low-class mischief, and an interest in the lives of extraordinary scoundrels and never-do-wells (the player characters). Is it fun? We think so.

Luís Bartolomeu Lopes
de Coimbra: By the Time
You Remember His
Name, He is DeadThe two sessions also reflect the system’s workings and the campaign dynamic. The scale of power is limited: characters usually begin on the 2nd level (although Little Juan had been a simple servant boy who had climbed all the ranks almost to the top), and players, NPCs, and monsters are limited to 6th level – but this achievement is quite a rarity in the game setting. A capable band can accomplish much, but always has to watch out for a stroke of misfortune, or the consequences of a bad decision (as the case of Luís demonstrates). There is no level scaling in Helvéczia, and none of the released adventures bear a level designation: a group of freshly rolled characters can try to tackle them just as well as seasoned hands – and as in the great picaresques, Fortune is a fickle mistress!

We could see the forms of magic at play, and their differences: Father Taddeo would memorise his spells at the churches and convents he visits (always doing his best with a limited and ever-changing repertoire), while Gérard Pradaswould have to procure rare magical components for his spells, which he has obtained from rare manuscripts and copied into a spellbook. (I do not know how he obtained that egg for the rare and supremely useful Fireball even as a player, although I am starting to have ideas about those giant raven hatchlings he carts around on the journey...) We could also see a use of the Holy Bible as a last-resort saving mechanic; but not its counterpart, involving a deck of cards and bets against the Devil himself; nor a third, very hazardous random table for those cases where nothing helps and you must seize the last shred of hope.

As for adventure design, these sessions combined a wilderness expedition with dungeoneering. Helvécziatends to have relatively small dungeons (although this is relative – the first supplement, to be included with the boxed set and also sold separately, has a much larger one), and in general, has an emphasis for situation-based mini-adventures which it calls “penny dreadfuls”. Wilderness expeditions and strange things in backwoods areas are of a particular interest, which also feature heavily in the Catalonia campaign – we have by now explored much of the south-western quadrant of the hex map, and our travels have brought us to its central areas. Helvéczia has a high interest in wilderness adventures, either as overland hex-crawls, or localised point-crawls describing a smaller area.

The Infernal Wedding (Helvéczia Mini-Adventure) (PDF, 1 MB)

The Infernal Wedding (original scanned notes in the Hungarian) (PDF, 2 MB)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Review & Commentary On Patrons of the Frontiers of Space By Joseph Mohr From Old School Role Playing For the Cepheus Engine Rpg & Old School Traveller

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 03/14/2021 - 07:48
 "This is a supplement for use with Cepheus Engine.Patrons of the Frontiers of Space is a list of 100 potential patrons for use with my "Frontiers of Space" published previously. These are patrons specific to the Sonora sector of space but they could easily be modified for use elsewhere."Joseph Mohr is one of those writers & designers whom sleep is another whole cloth luxury. Every couple of Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Godbound Session Report - The Jaws of the Leucrottas

Dark Corners of RPGing - Sun, 03/14/2021 - 03:22

 Tonight's Godbound rpg session almost ended earlier then expected. The PC's discovered a major planar wreck or ruin  along the edge of the Arizona border. And almost bought it during tonight's game as they were lured into the ruin by what they assumed was the cries  of child inside the wreckage. 

Spaceship Crash - Digital Matte Painting by Reeves123The party very carefully went inside only to find a cache of gems, swords, armor, & bones. Before the party could leave a strange planive cry or cough came from outside. And the party's demi god warrior Thesazu The Mighty saw the horrid vista of a mated pair of Leucrottas of incredible size. And the whole place sound weirdly like a fun house of horror. 

The party inside the craft found a crude shrine to  Kostchtchie,Yeenoghu,  a female aspect of Demogorgon! This messed with the players heads because this wasn't the usual Advanced Dungeons & Dragons aspect of the demon lord Demongorgon. This instead was a strange immortal  from Mystara?! And that's when they saw the giant hyenas & their witch riders! 

The party didn't even have time to get a spell off before two massive ice & lighning spells came bursting in on them! Then a brace of gnoll warriors were gated nearby each more scarred & battle hardened then the other. The gnolls & witches were chanting & chanting the name Kostchtchie, over & over again. The party has no wish to meet the demon lord of wraith. 

The players were not amused by this turn of events at all. They had their backs against the wall here & only a word of travel got them out of the situation. They were able to gate out fifty miles from the situation deep into the Arizona desert.  Kostchtchie has had it in for the player's PC's for a couple of years now. 

This began back in 2019 when the players killed a Leucrotta in Nevada that had come through a back alley version of a night road that had opened up within a small town. The party had saved a young woman from the jaws of the monster that was eating through a car door. And then cursed the monster say 'Whomever this horror belongs to we will bring wraith & vengence down upon you!' Tonight the hammer almost came down on the party's collective heads. Back in Dragon issue#91 in the 'Ecology of  Leucrottas' by Ed Greenwood we learned that these beings have very close connections to both Yeenoghu &  Kostchtchie

Is there far more going on here then meets the eye. And why is a major demon lord or lords tracking a party of minor godbound across the planes?! The players are both scared & pissed! They've come across the work of this pack or coven of demon worshipers before in the wreckage of small towns across Nevada.. With whispers of The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth that they've heard rumors of before in their ears things are heating up again. All in all not a bad game when you've got the player's PC's on the run again. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Waking of Willowby Hall, Dungeons and dragons adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 03/13/2021 - 12:23
By Ben Milton Questing Beast Games Knave/OSR Level 3

The manor of Willowby Hall is under siege by a giant, enraged at the theft of his magical goose. The band of thieves has taken shelter within the manor’s crumbling walls, cowering with their ill-gotten poultry as the building shakes itself apart. But something else is stirring. The giant’s rampage is slowly awakening a Death Knight from its black slumber, and once it rises it will call on the bones of the manor’s old residents to drive out the intruders. Will the party loot the manor of its ancient relics, or succumb to the blades of its skeletal guardians? Who will make off with the goose and its golden eggs? Will anyone survive the giant’s onslaught? The only way to find out…is to play.

This 32 page adventure features about thirty one rooms in a fanciful haunted two level manor home. With a rampaging cloud giant outside. It’s a classic situation dungeon. You think up some situation, then dump the party in to it and giggle as all hell breaks loose as they try to loot the fuck out of everything and not get themselves killed. Ben is not just “Not a fucking idiot” but actually knows what the fuck he is doing, and it shows.

It looks like this is a part of Zinequest 2, from Kickstarter, and ran in February of 2020 for two weeks, making about $13k. Delivery was promised in December 2020 and appears to have dropped in February of 2021. At first I was like “Man! $14k in two weeks! Sweet sweet lucre! If I could do one of these every two months then …” and then, after looking at the dates, I was like “oh man, the fucking stress! Dude must have been sick with it!” The results, though, are clearly with it.

Three adventurers break in to a cloud giants cloudy home and steal his goose, rumored to lay golden eggs, and run off, being chased by the giant. He’s grabbed the locals town bell from their church and is using it like a flail. The adventurers have run in to an old abandoned manor home, rumored to be haunted. Thus far we have: angry cloud giant in a silk dressing robe with a bell flair, nutso adventuring party, haunted manor, and Mildred the horrible magical goose. That’s a GREAT mix of shit going on and the fucking adventure hasn’t even started yet! Ben does this in just a couple of intro paragraphs and it sets the tone for whats to come.

This has a fanciful tone to it and is alluded to in that intro. The cloud giant with the goose that MIGHT lay golden eggs. He’s in a dressing gown. His name is Tom, a very respectful name for a giant and sometimes for trolls. That, alone, would bring the fanciful air of the folk tale to the adventure (which I have a well known LUV for.) Midred is the perfect name for the goose and making her a horrible wretch, who honks, bites, and runs away, is perfect for this adventure! Our adventurers that stole her are Helmut Halfsword, Lisbet Grund and Apocalypse Ann the magic user. Perfect names for this sort of adventure (And an art style that complements perfectly.) But, this is no kiddie game. While it makes allusions to folklore and has a lot of very relatable things because of that, this is not a kiddie adventure. Castle Xyntillan has  fun and fanciful air to it, a lightheartedness. If that’s one end of the spectrum and Shadowbrook Manor is the other end then this is somewhere in the middle. Not humorous, but a kind of setting up the environment for things to take a turn. I’m a big fan of D&D play with that tone. (I might note, also, that if this were for 1st levels then it would be the perfect intro dungeon for brand new players introduction to D&D. It’s accessible. Hmmm, maybe you can do it at level 3 also, it just makes them less squishy, which might be good for noobs, but not so much shit on the characters sheet as to overwhelm them?)

You get VTT maps. The inside cover has a layout of the map, along with notes around the edges for DM’s quick reference. Perfect. The room format has a brief sentence, with bolded words, with bullets and indents providing “i look closer” information. Perfect format. I could write a lot more about this. I don’t know, maybe I should. Whatever. I like the format. Basically, you get a one sentence intro, with a bolded word. It will have some bullets, indents under it. Then another paragraph with another bolded word or two, and some indents/bullets under it. Scanning the room, as a DM, is trivial. Reading the room to the players is easy, you’re just noting the first sentence above each bulleted section. Little mini-maps dot the pages, to give context for where the party is and whats inn the next room over. 

Ben has, it appears, taken the “no room keys” gauntlet. I have vented repeatedly in the past about adventures with no rooms keys. They try to describe using just text. Or, they put the room in some non-alpha format with no actual room keys. Ben also has no room keys. There are no numbers on the map and the room names, while on the mpa, are not in alpha order. But, wait, there’s more!

He DOES have rooms keys. They are page numbers. Breakfast Room P. 24. Music Room P18. With a big giant Breakfast Room on page 24 to help the DM locate it. Thus the index serves as the room key. Clever boy.

There are ghosts. They want things. The NPC party is running around. The giants bell is slowly “waking up” the haunted manor. The giant serves as a focus to keep the party on the move as he looks in windows and reaches and swings his bell flail … the related waking up also serving as a timer for the party. Thus there is motivation for the party to move their asses in and around the manor. 

Descriptions and great. A harpsichord says “Playing anything else causes thousands of harmless black spiders to swarm out over the PC’s hands. Save or scream in terror until removed.” A scream, of course, causing a wandering monster check. As does that horrible magical honking from the goose. There is A LOT to do in this adventure. Buttons to push, so to speak, and things to interact with, flee from, and leverage to your own ends. 

Great fucking adventure. Knave. Youtube channel. Phat kickstarter loot. Good adventure. Beautiful spouse. House in Malibu. But, alas, no cabal membership.

This is $7.50 at DriveThru. The preview is thirteen pages and shows you nearly all of the adventure. Great preview. Check out that preview even if you don’t buy it. You can see the format he’s used, both in the map and the keys, and get a sense of the interactivity.  


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On Castle Brass (2008) By Lawrence Whitaker For The Mongoose Publications Hawkmoon: The Roleplaying Game or The Elric of Melnibone RPG

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 03/12/2021 - 17:43
"  A guide to Count Brass’ domain, the Kamarg, Count Brass is an essential sourcebook for all Hawkmoon Players. An in-depth guide to the successful navigation of this potentially treacherous landscape.Not only will you learn the secrets of the Kamarg itself, you will learn the deep dark secrets that fester in each of its little towns. You will gain an understanding of its residents, along with Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Construction and Real Estate in a Fantasy Medieval Setting

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 03/12/2021 - 17:40

Once the treasure is won where can it be spent? One popular choice is to build or buy a stronghold, whether it is a lonely wilderness outpost, a crossroad inn, or a building in a bustling city state. 

Buying versus Building

If the campaign is set in a city or town, often there isn’t room for new construction. Instead the characters will have to purchase an existing structure or at the very least a vacant lot. 

Unlike the modern era, people in medieval and ancient time didn’t generally view the buying and selling of property as a means of profit. While specifics varied between cultures, examples include property viewed as a having a just price (see Thomas Aquinas), or the property was part of a bundle of rights individuals were due in their culture because of tradition, law, or social standing.

For my campaigns, I simplified this. Purchase of property in most cultures of my setting is viewed as an investment made for the income it produced. Not unlike buying a share of stock in a company. The value may go up and down based on larger events, but like a stock it has a specific value that is bought or sold at. Therefore, for these rules the price to buy a stronghold is the same as its construction cost. It reflects its fair price.

This sounds odd to a modern reader. In the modern era, a real estate developer will buy property, hire a contractor for construction and then in turn sell the property at a price higher than what the developer paid.

In the setting I created, there are no real estate developers. Those with the wealth to buy real estate and building would be outraged if somebody tried to sell them land or buildings for more than its fair value. 

Instead buildings are built as investments by those who plan to use them. A lord builds a castle as the lynchpin of a domain, a craftsman constructs or renovates a shop on a lot. 

When sold, the buyer pays only the actual value of the investment. What society considers at the time its “fair” value. Buying and selling at a profit is reserved for grubby merchants dealing in various commodities or luxuries like grain, spices, silk, or (gasp) magic items. Even then they are only tolerated not praised by the nobles, clergy, and peasants. 

Keep in mind that the fair value can rise and fall depending on local conditions. It also varies from its construction price if its use to produce income radically changes. 

If there is little difference in cost in buying versus building, why build at all? 

First because land and building are viewed as an income producing investment, the market is limited, people of the times are conservative about losing a source of income, and the property was often tied to a bundle of rights reflecting a social station in the culture like a knight’s manor. Loss of the property could mean the loss of one’s social standing. This meant the property you what may not be available at any reasonable price. Hence the need to build. In addition, if you build you also get to tailor the land or building to your specification rather than having to deal with already there.

It is possible to build at a cost lower than its fair value if you control the basic resources that are needed. Namely the right to harvest wood from a forest, and control of a stone quarry. Without needing to pay the market rate for lumber and stone, you can easily build at 75% of the cost or lower.

Not much in the way of mechanics in this post. But thinking about this and doing the research has allowed me to solve a long standing issue in how I run campaign. When PCs want to buy instead of build, what the price? And what the motivation of the NPCs selling the property? 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Larchive Friday – Low Lar Decks

Looking For Group - Fri, 03/12/2021 - 14:34

Fridays, we open the Larchives, Lar’s extensive archive of art work oddities, and share a few pieces. Costello’s Log, Stardate 57436.2 We’ve encountered a colourful, nigh omnipotent being known as Lar. His intentions remain unknown, but our xenopologists determined that […]

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Categories: Web Comics

Review & Commentary On Gunboats and Shuttles By Paul Elliott From Zozer Games For The Cepheus Engine Rpg & The Hostile Rpg Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 20:19
"Escape pods, lifeboats, shuttles, gunboats and dropships – vital smallcraft that play an important part in the gritty American Sector setting of HOSTILE. Nearly all of the smallcraft featured in the setting are covered here, with write-ups, external views and comprehensive deckplans. Included also are two pieces of shuttle-related fiction and a bonus: 11 pages scanned in from the ICO’s Flight Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Witchfinders (Target Collection) by Joy Wilkinson

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 20:00

The Thirteenth Doctor joins Doctor Who‘s Target collection in Joy Wilkinson‘s new novelisation of her 2018 television story The Witchfinders Today marks the arrival of several new and significant additions to the Doctor Who Target Books range. An eclectic mixture of novelisations of classic and modern television stories are becoming part this beloved collection. These latest […]

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Categories: Doctor Who Feeds

REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror (Target Collection) – A New Series story which hits the Target

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 18:00

Although the classic series run of Doctor Who has been fully novelised, the post-2005 era has not. Selection for which TV stories deserve the literary treatment is difficult. However few would disagree that ‘The Crimson Horror‘ is a prime candidate. An oft overlooked modern classic, ‘The Crimson Horror‘ continued the development of the Paternoster trio […]

The post REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror (Target Collection) – A New Series story which hits the Target appeared first on Blogtor Who.

Categories: Doctor Who Feeds


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