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Trollopulous Adjusted Session 23: Elderbrecht and the Blue Dragon

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 09/30/2023 - 13:39

The game I was so nervous about.

My old gaming buddy which I had reconnected with at Madicon was dead set on playing again, and somehow through his vast span of social connections somehow came upon this nearby family that was interested in playing D&D. The parents wanted to play and their 15-year-old son did, too. Adding to this group was two of his school friends, 15-year-old twin sisters, one of whom was a 5e DM.

To prep for the game I had merely spent some time talking to the players of the Urgrecht area and trying to coax ways that they could serve as either setting background or as adventure hooks. I was going to allow the new group to go anywhere and do anything so the idea of preparing anything was just exhausting to me. I never even got around to making up more dungeon material that they could play through.

The opening part of the session was very tedious as we worked through how to roll up player characters in AD&D. I went around the table filling out peoples’ height, weight, age, and movement stats. This really started to drag to me and I was concerned that anything good could proceed from all of this painstaking esoterica. The mom said something about not caring about the details which I misinterpreted as her wanting to be more of a story-focused type session. Later my friend told me that the 5e people were bred on a game that was even more tedious and complex than AD&D, so this was not nearly as off-putting as I feared. Also, I suppose that by not having a session zero we were going to be insanely far ahead of the typical rpg group even if it did take a while to crunch through everything.

Throughout the process I gave out bits of esoterica related to the rules and its literary antecedants. I tried to be as brief as possible. At some point I gave out a three minute description of the play area, mostly focusing on Billy’s pallisade (who was immediately deemed “the racist”) and Garamound’s cult of Zobleb. The players had an immediate affinity Garamound and Foam the Gnome because they were the anti-racist and anti-sexist faction. I got pushback when I described holy symbols as being a crucifix. The mom declared they could also be a Tibetan prayer wheels and she got up, retrieved an actual Tibetan prayer wheel which she gave to her son to use as a prop. So now I was concerned about there being a conflict between “the DM’s word is law” and “my house my rules!” How on earth was this going to work???

To wrap up this stage of the game, I asked my gaming friend if he could summarize the two game sessions that he had played in. We had a laugh recounting the bit at the Madicon game where the players murdered most of an NPC party and took all of their stuff right down to their clothes. But when I asked him to describe the flailsnail shell session, he went pale. He muttered something about it being too traumatic, too awful to even review it.

Anyway, we went on from there to some back and forth about each potential adventure hook. The players wanted to know how they knew each other and I said something about Fafhrd and the Grey Mouserb just sorta going on these excursions for the laughs and then blowing all of their money. Out of all of the hooks, the one that grabbed the most interest was the one about Elderbrecht going missing. The players head to Elderbrecht’s tower and meets up with Chuck “Long Drag”, who explains the situation and allows the players to search Elderbrecht’s lab.

So they go in and find on the work bench a monster movie style Jacob’s ladder, a red artifact, and a pile of copper coins with wheat on one side and an image of a man with a beard but no mustache on the back. The players have questions but want to explore first. They don’t find any secret doors or spellbooks, but up in the loft one of the twins finds a kyak. Inside it is a box screwed in place which she removes. It has two knobs and a dial with some numbers ranging from 94 to 107. She adjusts the dials and strains of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons emanate from the box. SHe surreptitously pockets the box and returns to the group.

Returning to the red box, they observe it has a slot, a drawer, and a readout with strange runes on it– it says, “$4.74”. The players bcome engrossed with examming it and discussing what to do with it. Finally, the twin that stole the artifact makes a play. She puts several coins into the box at once but then finds out that pulling the slot causes the whole thing to lock up. This throws the players into a frenzy. People are about to smash the box, throw it out the window, they start debating and arguing about what to do next, speculating on what went wrong.

At this point I notice that my gaming friend had turned white as a sheet. He was having flashbacks to the flailsnail session where a similar situation lead to the ENTIRE SESSION being about something really dumb. So I figured… if this was an introductory text adventure, some kind of hint or feedback would be given at this point. So I have Chuck clear his throat and suggest that violence isn’t the answer here. Then I simply declare that after interacting with the box for a while, they determine that putting one coin in at a time would work– in the interest of moving things along.

So somebody puts a copper piece in and pulls the slot. The party is engulfed in a flash of light or some such and they are transported into a tunnel. There are unusual iron rails on the ground and the cieling of the tunnel is rough and rocky. Somebody puts their ear to the track and indeed there is a sort of humming sound within it. My gaming buddy then suggests that the cleric types reach out to their deities. I take a moment to find the prayer table and check for them all and I get a hit with the girl that had taken the artifact earlier. She was Lawful Evil, so I checked the planes page from the PHB and I think it matched the bazillion hells or something. So I threw her a demonic voice that said something to the effect of, “I’ve got your back.”

The players relieved to discover that they are still in the AD&D cosmoslogy, but are still very concerned about being run over by a train, but they use the dwarf’s abilities to detect which direction lead “up”. They before long come out into brilliant sunlight by a stream. I describe cat tails and large dragonflies like I did everything else– description only without giving away the actual names– and the players puzzle out what this place must be.

The players engage with everything like it must be the most important thing ever. But this was all boring whether they knew it or not. It was past time for an encounter. I trot out one of my favorites– Apache indians on horseback! The players ask what kind of sound they are making which is “whoo whoo whoo whoo.” I am informed this is racist, but I fire back that at least I am not doing the “Tonto” thing. Anyway. The players are not inclined to fight the Apache. There is a brief encounter and the players are encouraged to jump onto a horse and ride with them. None of this makes any sense but the players are going along with this. I had kind of wanted a fight here, but I rolled a freaking 98 for the reaction and so now I had surprised even myself with this dumb encounter.

What I really wanted next was a thunderbird chasing the Indians. I looked for a pterodactly in the monster books and just could not find one. Frustrating! Finally in exasperation, I went with a blue dragon, which I later nailed down as eight hit dice with three hit points per die. The Apache sort of fan out, seperating and I describe something blotting out the sun. And the players all know what is happening without me having to tell them and I think my friend even suggested selecting a random horse to determine who gets fried and the players all suggest that maybe if one horse is killed, the thing will be satiated and leave the rest alone. SO I roll the die and it comes up as a seven. One of the random Apache guys is zapped by lightening and sure enough the players look back and see a blue dragon feasting on his horse and the players are all kind of stunned because that could just as easily have been one of them and what DM is going to do something that stupid, wow, gosh!

Now briefly, I then sketch out a scenario that all of these elements imply. Elderbrecht is with the Apache village and has twelve sons. He has been here twenty years. (A player suggests he has gone the full Colonel Kurtz.) There is a gold mine in one direction and the train tracks also lead to a coal mine that is deep in the heart of dragon territory. The “iron horse” is an interdimensional space/time machine that can get everybody home if Elderbrecht can get it up to 88 miles per hour. He needs the coal to do this. Which means the players need to take care of the dragon. He gives them a map of a secret entrance to the dragon’s plateau/cave.

The dwarf suggested that he could find coal somewhere else as if he had a “water witching” type ability for that. But this did not pan out. The players gradually resigned themselves to the fact that they will actually have to fight something and take some risks. But the Apache have metal arrow heads and they determine that the gold mine area had both black smiths and dynamite available. They end up paying the gold mine people a chunk of gold to make crossbows that could fire dynamite sticks with probably some sort of contact trigger. There is an A-team style montage sequence as these are tested and produced, and so armed, the players become convinced that their suicidal objective is maybe doable.

As to what to do next, the players lapse into an extended bit of discussion and planning and debate. Finally I have to break in and say, “look… you just have to make a plan here and then we are going to see how it turns out.” The mom at this point got very animated declaring that it was absurd that these people had lived on the edge of dragon territory for twenty years without doing an indepth study of the habits and behavior of blue dragons. But such information was not forthcoming– neither were detailed maps of the dungeons which Elderbrecht said he had found all of his artifacts.

So the players finally set out for the plateau which was two days away. They travel only at night. They have a camoflaged tarp which they hade under during the day. I check for encounters in the desert for two days of travel and nothing comes up. The players wait until nightfall and send the ranger forward to place six charges of dynamite at the entrance. I do a surprise check to see if the dragon could get the drop on the players here and I think the ranger actually would have had surprise on the dragon with this. So I told the players this looked to be successful.

At this point, the elf thief went to the back entrance, made a climbing roll and then just barely made a move silently check to get in position on a balcony. (I thought this was a failure until my friend reminded me of the bonus for her insanely high dexterity.) The elf could see the dragon sleeping on her big pile of coins here due to her infravision.

When four hours had elapased, the players at the front of the cave began to make a commotion. The dragon– who really was determined to be asleep according to the rules– wakes up and rushes to the entrance. Now, the players had elected to have a cleric on either side of the entrance ready to throw a COmmand to “halt” right at the charges. I make saving throws for the dragon and one succeeds while the other fails– the players breath a sigh of relief that everything seems to be working so far.

Next, the clerics run away from the entrance as the rest of the party fires their crossbows. But then there is a turn for the worse: all three of them roll really low. They don’t even hit armor class 10 even without the penalty due to not having the weapon proficiency. This was… alarming and the players were sure that they were looking at a total party kill here. But then everyone remembered that there was one more crossbow– with the elf thief that was in the cave! Everything has come down to one more die roll… BUT IT HAS TO BE A GOOD ONE. She rolls the d20 onto the dice tray and… it comes one as an 18. Even with a penalty for range this is going to be a solid hit. The charges all explode and the main cave entrance collapses. And somehow everything felt like everything in the game had culminated into this wildly unlikely outcome where every choice, every idea could just conspire together to this proton torpedo to the exhaust port type ending.

I can’t describe how exciting this was. The tenseness of it all. The terror. The narrow successes. The dashed hopes. The sudden turn of luck at just the right moment. You couldn’t make this sort of thing up and yet the die rolls for all of this were done right out in the open. People could not believe that they had beaten a dragon at first level. People could not recall ever beating a dragon PERIOD, much less with first level dudes. This all seemed real and impossible and legitimate and legendary all at once. Genuinely amazing.

I started rolling through the treasure tables and crunching through the numbers for XP and so forth. It came out to enough for people to level twice, really. (While I did this, the dad had set up a target in the back yard so that everyone that had fired the crossbows end game could larp out the climatic scene with a bow and arrow.) There was also the matter of a set of three dragon eggs which the party also recovered. By now it was well after nine o’clock when we had started at 2pm. I ruled that due to the train and so forth, moving the coin back to civilization was not going to be an issue as it would normally. My old friend had visions of using the dragon eggs a la Game of Thrones to take over the world. Everybody was stoked. I could tell everyone was pumped and happy and almost even stunned even without the 15 year old girl that played the ranger telling me more than once that this was awesome.

We all went home but everybody talked about the game for days.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Into the Caves of the Pestilent Abomination

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/30/2023 - 11:11
By Marcelo P Augusto Giallo Games OSR Levels 1-2

Something evil and cruel has been terrorizing the peaceful villagers of Woodsmen Village. Who will be the brave adventurers to discover the source of this evil and restore peace to the land?

Thi 24 page adventure features a cave with twelve rooms. It is 2023 and OSR adventures continue to be terrible. Including this one.

Ok, I Just typed up a long paragraph that I decided was a harsh personal attack on the designer. So I deleted it. Instead, I poured myself a drink (9:23! I’m doing better!) and am going to write the normal boring ass review of a normal dreadful adventure. But, man, I fucking went there. Cause this dude doesn’t deserve that. It’s not a rip off adventure. It’s just a dude doing his best. Like, you’re having open heart surgery by a dude that saw a cartoon yesterday that had a beating heart in it and now, today, you’re going under the knife.

The dungeon starts on page fifteen. Up until then we get a village description, or, rather, the village backstory description, as well as a couple of pages on the surrounding wilderness. Everything in this describes, pretty much, this wandering priest who used to be around, who stank a lot. Now there’s sheep heads and slaughtered animals showing up. Best go track him down. 

The village, proper, doesn’t really get much of a description. Nor does it really need one. It starts off with a paragraph describing an idyllic little place. And then it goes on and on and on and on, with backstory mostly and a little “pleasant farmers doing pleasant farmer shit.” Absolutely nothing, beyond that first paragraph, is needed to run this village. We all know what a kitchen looks like. Then there’s what feels like six hundred pages of back story that is kind of disguised as rumours that you can hear. There IS a rumour table, but it’s kind of meaningless. “Ocs in the mountains!” kind of shit. The actual adventure backstory has all of the information that you want to tell the players, integrated in to the adventure. You’re not going to be able to do that, of course, since there’s no way to slog though it all except in real time. It’s all mostly about the stinky priest that used to come around. And a little about the traveling heroes that saved their village once. WHich is why, I guess, everyone is afraid of you when you come in to town. Because wandering heroes saved them once and they still venerate tem and remember them and now they are afraid of all wandering heroes. I’d love it if this shit made sense, but it don’t. 

Ok, so, there’s a wilderness map. It has place son it from the rumour table, like that pass with orcs, and where the last sheep head was found and shit like that. They get no descriptions. While the locations are keyed, on the map, there are no descriptions of any of the locales. There’s a short wandering monster table, in case you want to meet “deer” or “1d6 wolves.” Have fun. You need to wander in to the swamp, where you will find tracks that lead to a small mound with a cave entrance in it. 

Great! You’re at the cave. Enjoy such room titles as Tunnel 1 and Cave 2 and Citrine Cave 3. You’ll find a map with about twelve rooms on it. And no grid. Why no grid? Why was that the decision you made?  Have ya played D&D before? You know we need a map grid, right? I mean, yes, you did put on a, like a line that says 1” equals ten feet … but that don’t cut it.

You can then enjoy many confused and overly long descriptions that repeat things form the map and need better evocative writing. You will find a +1 dagger, a cursed necklace, and, I don’t know, 100gp in treasure. Again, have you played D&D before? You know that gold equals XP? No? 

Oh, after all that lead up to the stinky priest, in this stinky cave, it turns out that the priest is long dead. All of that foreshadowing is worthless. It’s actually a stinky troll in the last room. A troll. At level one. You have fucking fun with that, yeah?

There are a couple of decent encounter ideas in this. A spider crab thing lurking under the water outside of the cave entrance in the swamp. Always a fun encounter! Some quicksand in an otherwise flooded cave … that’s a nice little combo that can bring some life to an otherwise staid encounter type. 

Otherwise it’s nothing but repetition, boring words, and abstraction. Houses in town are decorated with various allegories like pumpkins and candles in the windows. Fucking great. DESCRIBE it. Make us FEEL it. Don’t fucking abstract a key component of the adventure.

This is just junk. A step backwards in OSR design, in many ways, from the slightly better terrible offerings generally showing up these days. 

This is $2.50 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages, the first six, so you get about two pages of actual text … and I’m being generous in that. Just imagine that everything int he adventure is like that and you’ll get an idea of it.

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OSR Commentary- '84 One Set To Rule Them All With Mentzer's Dungeons & Dragons Set 3: Companion Rules

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/30/2023 - 05:40
 Let's pick it right back up from here on the blog. Nineteen Eighty four was a huge year when the Companion Dungeons & Dragons boxset hit the stands by Frank Mentzer. The Companion box set hit like a ton of bricks bringing the levels of the BECMI Dungeons & Dragons PC level climb past fifteenth level. And this was a big deal on multiple levels because it brought domain level play into Mentzer D&DNeedles
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State of The Tavern - Fall is for Changes - Good Ones, We Hope ;)

Tenkar's Tavern - Sat, 09/30/2023 - 01:10

It's been a while since your bartender has done a State of the Tavern update. As there are some things "in the works", I figured today is as good a time as any to make the announcements.

1 - I've been approached about participating in a licensed product's development based on a well-loved IP of yore. Too early to discuss details, but I am truly psyched. I'll need to find time in my busy retired guy day to accommodate this one ;)

2 - The Tavern's Substack - hasn't been updated in 3 months. Why? Because weekly was just too frequent for most of the channels we were highlighting, and it wasn't meant to simply highlight Your Bartender's Youtube Channel. So, it's going to be monthly. Secondly, we are going to add paid-for gaming content. I figure a short dungeon adventure (sort of like the one-page dungeon or a bit longer) would pay up to 25 bucks in DTRPG store credit, and a magic item write-up could be 5 bucks, a trap could be 5 bucks, etc. System neutral, so we won't need to worry about licenses. Authors retain all rights, The Tavern's Substack simply asks to publish it on Substack on a single post/issue. This would come from affiliate monies earned, and I like to give those back to the community when I can. Figure the budget will be around 50 bucks an issue, with a frequency of once a month, starting with November 2023.

3 - - is doing well, but I want to reward our paying members. I'm thinking of doing a bonus episode or two each week, brainstorming gaming content, and releasing that for members a week before releasing it into the wild for everyone. I'm open to further ideas on this topic :)

That's all for now. Time to research how feasible it is to return to NYC tomorrow after today's flooding...

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. The Tavern DOES NOT do "Paid For" Articles and discloses personal connections to products and creators written about when applicable.

DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat cast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar      

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OSR Review & Commentary On Penney Tower By J.G. Desborough For The Wretched New Flesh Second Edition Rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/30/2023 - 00:13
" Penney Tower was just released at the Red Room store, @biggeekemporium and @GiantSlayerRPGs. It will be available later at in softcover. Penney Tower is a city sourcebook and an alternative location for the world of Wretched New Flesh, inspired by JG Ballard, and authored by @Grimasaur." Penney Tower s a hard creation to get a handle on because it harkens back to the early Needles
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OSR Commentary On CM1 Test of the Warlords by Douglas Niles & Adventurer Conqueror, King 1st edition Rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/29/2023 - 18:13
 "The king requests your presence in the honorable kingdom of Norwold. If you're worthy, you may be appointed lord of a dominion filled with friendly villages, sturdy fortresses, and raging band of monsters.""Raging bands of monsters?Well, yes, and you may have to lead your forces into a war or two. But you'll be ready for the challenge. You'll be ready for treacherous spies who conspire to stealNeedles
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Hex Crawl 23 #257: Meadows of Nahlu

Roles & Rules - Fri, 09/29/2023 - 10:20

Seven hexes northwest, five north of Alakran.

 In these fields, having passed through heights and downward courses from its precarious existence in the eastern plain, the river Nahlu-Galal becomes steadier, richer, better supplied from a wide watershed, and prepares to receive its downstream name of Kathithi as it passes between the gods and the human rulers of the Petitioners of Fate.

This is a pleasant stretch where the river floods in the rainly season and waters abundant grasses, much appreciated by the herders who sally forth from the eastern suburbs of Eryptos and from the village of Kin-Yan. As we have learned, livestock tend to be spooked by the great colossi. But the herders around here know another remedy. If a young beast is taken to the water as it flows between Hurru's feet and those of the mighty god-emperor Hurzak, and drinks from it, it will have no fear of any of the giant. Thus in lambing and kidding season the herders make of the rite a week-long festival, with stalls selling food and drink, and jocular contests of rivalry, verbal and physical, between those dwelling east and west of the Petitioners.

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OSR Commentary - On Order - The Clement Sector Third Edition Rpg Book from Independence Games

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/29/2023 - 06:05
 So tonight after talking it over with my players I took advantage of the Cyberpunk sale on Drivethrurpg to grab a physical copy of the Clement Sector rpg book in hardcover. For the past couple of weeks our Clement Sector campaign has been on hold. The 2d6 Space Western has been a favorite at our table top now for over a year now. Rogues, scholars, bounty hunters, and mad men have all been met atNeedles
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Humble Bundle - Iconic SciFi AudioBooks

Tenkar's Tavern - Fri, 09/29/2023 - 00:45

I'm a huge fan of Audiobooks. Whereas my mind is no longer wired to read 2 to 3 novels in a week (I'm lucky if I can hit that in a year these days) audiobook I can devour like candy.

The Iconic SciFi AudioBooks Bundle at Humble Bundle includes Larry Niven's Ringworld, a series that I always wanted to read but never did, and likely never would if it weren't for this bundle. The rest of the selection looks pretty good too. Huzzah!

In Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s bestselling Hell Divers series, you’ll explore the deadly skies of a blighted, war-ravaged Earth as humanity scavenges to survive. Close your eyes and tune into a selection of iconic sci-fi and fantasy series with this audiobook bundle from Blackstone Publishing! Discover the mysteries of an ancient cosmic artifact of mind-boggling scale in Larry Niven’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning Ringworld series. In the Runelords series by David Farland, you’re thrust into a fantasy world where great power can be transferred between beings—often at great cost. Immerse yourself in these beloved series and more—a total of 20 audiobooks—and help First Book’s mission to provide quality education for kids in need.

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. The Tavern DOES NOT do "Paid For" Articles and discloses personal connections to products and creators written about when applicable.

DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat cast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar     

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Stars Without Number Game Session Four - Phaseworld & Trey Causey's Strange Stars Campaign - You Can't Go Gnome Again

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/28/2023 - 16:39
 The job from last session from the Engineer and his mafia bosses is a seemingly simple one. Take this genetic material to a Gnome asteroid colony for transport. In return we upgrade your ship, sell you weapons, and provisions. The players are not stupid so thier cybersneaks started checking for a 'gene guy' to check out the material. PC's were looking for viruses and bioweapons snuck into the Needles
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The Adventure-Point Crawl Campaign

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/28/2023 - 11:00

My kid has been rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender, which means I have been rewatching it, and that gave me an roleplaying game related idea, not so much in regard to its content, but its structure. 

The creation of the fantasy epic, such a staple of fantasy media, has always been hard in games because historically attempts to do so have led to limited options for player agency. At best, the Adventure Path that is the modern descendant of the Dragonlance modules tends to be really linear. At worst, it's outright railroady.

I don't think it has to be that way, though, but it would require some discussion and buy-in from players and a good session zero. Here's how I think it could work:

1. The GM tells the players the campaign setting and situation and suggests (but not mandates) a Quest, perhaps. Or perhaps, the players and the GM sort of make that up together. The "Quest" is the desired outcome: defeat the Firelord in the case of The Last Airbender or defeat Sauron in Lord of the Rings.

2. The player's make up characters, finalize the Quest, and plan the steps they think they will need to achieve it. The Quest needn't be etched in stone. It's possible the campaign as it unfolds might lead to a different goal, e.g.: Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace. It failed. But in the year of the Shadow War, it became something greater: our last, best hope for victory. It's even conceivable PCs might switch sides. Anyway, there should also be more character specific goals woven in, not just big campaign ones./

3. The GM plots those steps both geographically on a pointcrawl and node-wise for the campaign structure and makes clocks of antagonist/rival actions actions other events. It's important to note here that that steps which will become nodes aren't plotted scenes. They aren't linked to each other linearly for the most part and they are supposed to go any certain way. In Avatar, Aang has to master the 4 elements. That goal could have played out a lot of different ways. In fact, it takes two potential teachers before he ultimately gets to learn firebending. Localizing potential places where the goals can be achieved is important, because fantasy epic tends to cover geography. They aren't just dramas or soap operas to be played out at home.

4. The players choose where to go at all points and have other adventures and encounters along the way sue to those choices. This may call for a bit of separation of player and character knowledge, but even without that, I feel like it works if the players just know the likely location of achieving one of their goals. Circumstances may mean it doesn't work out. The world doesn't stay static. But any unsuccessful atempt to achieve a goal at a point should always yield clues to a goal--either another one or the one they failed to achieve.

5. Players can alter goals in response to events or desire.  New point crawl "maps" may need to be generated in reponse. When one goal node come online, new hooks and areas of interest need to be populated around them. It's the story goals embedded in sandboxy locations that makes this much less linear than an adventure path.

6. Repeat until the PCs achieve the goal or the clocks expire and a new status quo (and possibly campaign) is established. What if the hobbits fail to destroy the ring before Sauron's victory? Well, the story needn't be over.

This approach doesn't feature the session to session freedom of the completely sandbox game, it's true. However, the player collaboration in the planning phase ensure it's not a GM enforced story. Indeed, both players and GM will be surprised by the final shape of the emergent story. 

Hex Crawl 23 #256: Petitioners of Fate, South of the Kathithi

Roles & Rules - Thu, 09/28/2023 - 09:59

Eight hexes northeast, four north of Alakran.


The Petitioners of Fate have already been described previously. Here is a guide to the colossi that can be seen south of the Kathithi river, in four main zones lettered A-D, rising among the lesser rock formations that are their matrix and backdrop. These are the gods who face the kings across the river. Some of the theology is explained here.

A: The regal figures of Wasir and Eset, 350 feet high, preceded by a retinue of 8 lesser gods a mere 100 feet each.

B: Hidden behind the ridge, the dwarf god Bes and baboon god Hapi, only 120 feet tall, herding along a retinue of lesser animal gods which are carved to "only" 50 feet height.

C: The five other gods of the intercalary days (180 feet) in the rear, then linking hands, the dark and light goddesses Wajet and Nebethet. A dozen more minor gods at 100 feet tall, then dread Anpu with a threshing stick, standing over a low formation (30 feet) carved in the form of a carpet-like mass of slain demons of every description, and facing Tiamat to the north in challenge. A light is sometimes seen shining in Ampu's eyes, which appear hollow, but lead nobody knows where.

D: Facing north across the river, the war-god Hurru towering at 300 feet with an upward-and downward-pointing sword receiving the kings' petition, and behind him the enigma of Sutekh, 250 feet tall, with a mysterious half-carved formation at his feet that must be his amorph mascot. Rumors circulate of a secret entrance in that amorph, leading to chambers and tunnels beneath. In Sutekh's trail comes an impressive parade of a hundred and twenty lesser gods, two by two and 150 feet tall.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Outworld setting As An Alternative Hostile rpg Campaign.

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/28/2023 - 06:06
 When it comes to the Hostile rpg, we been talking about going back to the Outworld campaign we started ages ago using Hostile rpg rules. The reasons for this are myriad but it comes to the fact that the players love the September group Сентябрьская группаq organization that they've been using as thier over arching campaign corporation. We've basically filled in some of the Hostile rpg Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bundle of Holding - Flying Circus

Tenkar's Tavern - Thu, 09/28/2023 - 02:06

No, not Monte Python's Flying Circus, but Flying Circus, the aviation-fantasy tabletop roleplaying game. So, what the heck is aviation-fantasy tabletop roleplaying?

Fly high with this new Flying Circus Bundle featuring Flying Circus, the Apocalypse Engine aviation-fantasy RPG from Newstand Press. In Flying Circus you're a fantasy adventurer, but instead of a sword and spells, you have an overworked biplane with rusty machine-guns – and you might still have to fight a dragon. Above the sprawling industrial-fantasy land of Himmelgard, daring pilots – heroes, knights errant, and scoundrels for hire – protect small rural communities beset by monsters, bandits, and tyrants. Flying Circus optimizes the Apocalypse Engine system to support highly detailed aircraft construction rules and an authentic (and authentically dangerous) flight experience that will charm fans of anime classics like Porco Rosso and Laputa.

For just US$12.95 you get all four titles in our Circus Collection (retail value $75) as DRM-free ebooks, including the complete Flying Circus Core Rulebook, previously presented in our November 2020 Indie Cornucopia 8 (plus the free Aircraft Catalogue Core) along with the expansions Horrors of the Heights, Flights of Fancy, and First Flights.

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. The Tavern DOES NOT do "Paid For" Articles and discloses personal connections to products and creators written about when applicable.

DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat cast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar     

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Tegel Manor - Worlds Without Number & Cities Without Number Rpg -B6 The Veiled Society By David Cook

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 18:53
 "Dawn's light reached through the window to shine on the man who sat brooding in the chair. Cartha Radu, brother to Anton Radu (the leader of the Veiled Society), was thinking. "Today is the day," he said to himself. "Today is the day to bring my plan into action," Cartha smiled. Below his tower window, the cityfolk slowly awoke. Today was the Festival of Lucor. The goodwives flung open their Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Down in Yon Forest

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 11:11
By Zzarchov Kowolski Self Published NGR/OSR Level ?

Down in Yon Forest is a seasonal adventure about a small town dealing with the threat of Krampus and torn between the Holy Church and the Old Gods in dealing with him.

This thirty page adventure details a small village full of children that need to be saved from Krampus, with a couple of small dungeons nearby that might help you do that. Editing is weirdly poor on this, with the usual Zzarchov layout issues that lead to wall of text syndrome. Which is too bad given the finery contained within.

No, you can’t buy this ZZarchov adventure. I picked it up at GenCon, I guess, at his physical booth. I wouldn’t normally review/seek out something like that, but, I own it now and it was next on the pile of physical books to review. Also, it’s a holiday adventure. I fucking LOATHE holiday adventures and don’t seek them out. But, it’s the next on top of the pile, so, here goes …

Hey, it’s not bad!

More than anything else, you need to know that there is an integrated … naturalism? to this adventure. I think that’s true for a great many ZZarchov adventures, but it strikes me, here, much more so than many of his others. This naturalism immerses you in a world that WORKS. It makes sense. Little things, thrown in the text, to make the locations visceral, or to make situations, for clever and observant players, work out. Or not. The shit here makes sense. It’s not thrown in your fucking face. It just IS. And that IS makes this entire thing so much more than the sum of it. It’s got all the best parts parts of, say, a Harn 100 Bushels adventure making sense, without all of the garbage appeals to realism that drag a text down. The things here either make you really FEEL the vibe of a place or are useful tools for exploitation. And that is, one hundred percent, exactly the fuck how you write one of these things. Sure, other settings can other vibes, but, ideally, you want these places to come alive and make sense. I’m not even sure that’s the right phrase, make sense, but I hope you get what I mean. And Zzarchov does a fantastic fucking job of doing it. 

The setting here is the pseudo-medieval europe that he generally uses. Not quite as modern, it seems, as the general Lamentations setting. A little more rustic. Or rough around the edges. The Holy Mother CHurch has gotten some shit done, but things are also very much not under control. In this one we’ve got a remote village in winter. Up on a hill, a wooden palisade, about ten to fifteen small homes inside of it, a wooden gate protecting it. A cemetery and a mill outside of it. And, smack dab in the middle, a plume of smoke and still embering ruin of a church with a big black cauldron out front. Looks like the local priest had a bit too much of the wassail he was brewing for christmas eve, got drunk and knocked over some candles and burned the place down, burning himself to a crisp in the process. Oops. Oh, also, all of the kids hide out in the church every christmas, consecrated ground and all that, to keep from getting stolen by Krampus. So, no consecrated ground this year. Oops. Good thing the party just showed up!

ZZarchov gives you some options here. First, there are notes on Krampus getting in to houses, and how long that takes. He wants kids, not to fight the party, so some small details on coming down chimneys and how long things takes. Then, he gives you more options. There’s an inn nearby with some mercenaries in it. You could go bring them back to help defend the village. Also, they are drunkards, hate peasants, and will need some motivation … and booze. And pay. Or, you could go seek out the witch nearby. She eats kids also, so, you know, Krampus could cramp her style. Also, there’s a fort nearby (dungeon option number one) with a chapel in it. It has a slight Black Death problem. You could check it out and if its ok then haul the kids there to wait out the night in that chapel. It’s also got a slight gargoylse problem, it turns out, with a holy shrine keeping them at bay, kind of. And they are SHITS man. There are some absolute deathtraps here, created by the gargoyles. Or grotesques, as named in the adventure. Again, the slight touch of realism to bring things a little more visceral home. Anyway, silver, iron … home the party pick up on the clues in the place or they are gonna get F U C  K E D! Ah, oh, it looks like, also, the miller is KIND OF a pagan and knows of an old god The Winter King, that would probably keep ol Krampas at bay. But hes locked up since the church came through a hundred years ago. You could go free him. (Dungeon option number two.) He’s not that bad. Old god shit, so, you know, be polite and make an offering kind of shit. He gonna be pissed if you stole any of his items of office, like his 20k bear belt. Hey, did I mention the vampire that lives there also? Turns out he’s trapped, since the burial mound for the inter king is on an island in the middle of a river, running water and all. He might also be an option for anti-krampusing. And, he’s got these great elf-ghoul/thrall things running around. Another great concept here, bringing things a little more to life. Of course! That brings much more colour to the situation than just the normal dirt scum thralls. 

In accepting that this isa bit of an open-ended adventure, I must accept that the winter kings lair, the witch, the miller (who knows all about the winter king … and is a hidden pagan to boot! … did I mention that an examination of the priests body shows that his throat was slit before being burned? Itss those little thrown-in details that add SO much depth to a ZZarchov adventure!), the vampire, the inn and the abandoned fort won’t ALL be discovered and used by the party. Which is a fucking shame … but also a side-effect of the little regions that we all adore so much to play in!

And for the downside … the fucking editing and layout sucks ass. More so than usual in a Zzarchov adventure. There are SEVERAL editing misses in this that should have been caught. I almost never mention shit like this, but, for whatever reason, they stood out in this one to a distracting degree. And it’s formatted as only a mother could love. Just raw paragraphs with some blue and red text here and there, instead of bolding I guess. Sure. This could work. Theoretically. If you had a genius doing the work. You don’t have to go all OSE here, or Dungeon Age or whatever. But, hey, maybe just do SOMETHING to ease up the old burnden on the 6pt font?

So, hey man, great holiday adventure! The exception to the rule! Too bad the suckers reading this can’t buy it. Maybe they should come seek you out in person at a con? Decent job here.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1982 (week 4)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 11:00
I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, we look at the comics hitting the newsstand on August 26, 1982.

Weird War Tales #118: Kane provides a cover that seems to be an homage to Giant-Sized X-Men #1. I've praised Kanigher certain sort of inventiveness before and this issue is another example. He and Carrillo have the G.I. Robot and the Creature Commandos brought to London to be decorated by the King. With this framing device of our heroes adventures getting related to his Royal Highness, we get the usual sorts of adventures of these guys. G.I. Robot, who already bested the samurai robot, now has to face the "geisha robot"--and the female is deadlier than the male, because J.A.K.E. apparently doesn't want to hurt a lady. Instead, in their second encounter, he leads her on a chase that winds up with her destroying herself stepping on a landmine.
In the Creature Commando yarn, a group of Nazis escape from a military prison and take a group of kids that had previously been having a picnic with the Commandos captive. The monsters go all out to rescue their young friends.

World's Finest Comics #286: Burkett and Buckler/LaRosa contain the zodiac story. After Zatanna's injury last issue, Superman and Batman take her to the JLA Satellite, but ultimately Wonder Woman decides to take Zatanna to Paradise Island where they can use the Purple Healing Ray. Batman and Superman return to their respective cities.
In the meantime, Dr. Zodiac ponders his current situation and recalls how he was sprung out of prison by Madame Zodiac, who he's now romancing. It's clear that she has been the promoter of his actions to fulfill the dictates of the evil dark cloud she serves. 
The dark cloud is on the move again. Its powers seem to unleash people's darkest impulses and turns people against each other using hate as the fuel.Clark's neighbor's dog is stolen by a Satanic cult to be sacrificed. Superman stops them, but he is once again attacked by the dark cloud and is temporarily incapacitated. In Gotham City, Lucius Fox returns home to find the Ku Klux Klan waiting for him outside his house. Batman, Robin, and ultimately Superman respond.
Later, the dark cloud has gained all the power required from Dr. Zodiac and Madame Zodiac, and a new wave of monsters start plaguing the cities of America. The Justice League members encounter werewolves and vampires. In Gotham, Batman, Robin and Superman contend with a horde of zombies, but after dealing with the monsters, Batman is possessed by the dark cloud.

Action Comics #538: Barr and Norvick have Superman at a low point after his defeat by Jackhammer. Bruised and half-conscious, Superman limps to Jimmy Olsen's apartment and asks his friend to use his disguise skills to help him hide his bruises. 
For the next few days, Superman keeps a low profile, using his other powers to thwart robberies from a distance as his wounds heal. At the same time, Jackhammer exploits his newfound fame to rise in the Metropolis underworld and go on a crime spree.
After a week goes by without a Superman sighting, the Daily Planet staff starts wondering what has happened to their hero. At night, Clark Kent privately admits to himself he is afraid. Thinking of his parents, Clark mans up and heads out.
Superman confronts Jackhammer again, but the armored villain still has the upper hand. The crowd of on-lookers moves in to help Superman, distracting Jackhammer long enough for Supes to defeat the foe. Superman receives the multitude's congratulations, but he insists he's the one who is grateful for the help of the people of Metropolis.
In the Aquaman backup by Rozakis and Saviuk, Aquaman and Mera first have to deal with the fallout of her out of control powers. Then, it's revealed that Mera's psyche is somehow imprisoned and someone else shares her body--a someone who commands the body to strangle Aquaman!

Arion Lord of Atlantis #1: Kupperberg and Duursema bring Arion back to Atlantis, which is under attack from Thamuz, a state-city ruled by D'Tilluh's son M'Zalle. Arion helps defend the city and defeats a band of assassins. Arion learns his rival, Garn Danuuth, is commanding the Thamuzian forces and seeks a secret hidden beneath the city. 
Meanwhile in the wastelands, Lady Chian and Wyynde try to find their way back to Atlantis under the mistaken belief that Arion is dead. They encounter a girl named Mara fleeing from Thamuz. She carries with her a crystal ram's head which soldiers have been sent to retrieve. Chian and Wyynde defeat the soldiers, then bring Mara back to Atlantis.

All-Star Squadron #16: Part One of this recounts All-Star Squadron #14 which has now been altered due the crossover that just completed last month now having never happened. When the All-Star Squadron returns to the meeting rooms of the JSA.  they discover a disheveled Wonder Woman await for them. She had her own encounter with Nuclear. Steve Trevor was captured in the battle, and she has come to the Squadron seeking aid.
The Squadron takes Wonder Woman’s invisible plane to Norfolk to investigate. They track Trevor and Nuclear to the lab of a dilletante named Percy Playboy. The villain’s magnetic powers are effective against the All-Star’s, but Trevor escapes and shoots Nuclear, apparently killing him.
Thomas concocted this story to plug an old continuity gap. Percy Playboy, the villain Nuclear, had his first and only other appearance in 1950 in Wonder Woman #43. Strangely, that story is called "Nuclear's Return" and calls him Wonder Woman's archnemesis, even though he never appeared before. So, Thomas gives his that previous meeting, at least in continuity.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #10: I bought this issue off the stands as a kid. Andy "Wolfie" Wolf, the antagonist of Peter "Pigiron" Porkchops from when they both were just funny animal characters in the 40s is brought into this superhero update by doing a riff on the Wolfman. A curse transforms him into the Wuz-Wolf--'cause he "was a wolf, but he ain't no more."
Anyway, there's also a backup where Fastback has to deal with Chesire Cheetah who reminds me a lot of Chester Cheetah, except he's not cheesy. In the literal way, I mean.  
Detective Comics #521: Conway and Novick seem to be heading toward returning Catwoman to villainy by first making her the crazy ex-girlfriend.  Selina awakens from a nightmare where she murders Victoria Vale. She calls Wayne Manor, hoping to talk with Bruce, but when Alfred tells her that Bruce is asleep (really, he's out as Batman), Selina assumes that Bruce is really spending the night with Vicki, which only makes matters her jealousy worse. 
A few hours later, Vicki Vale gets a visit from Catwoman, who warns her to stay away from Bruce and she threatens to kill her if she doesn't. The next morning, Vicki tells Bruce all about it. Bruce tells her that Selina was responsible for their breakup and that now she has to deal with him moving on. As Vicki and Bruce kiss, Catwoman watches from a distance and makes a vow to fight to the death for Bruce's affection.
With Selina's heel turn, Green Arrow moves into the backup slot courtesy of Cavalleri and von Eeden. And we're in for some early 80s computer stuff! A story on computer crime Oliver Queen is working on vanishes from his terminal at the Daily Star. In its place he gets the image of Hi-Tek, who tells Oliver that he deleted his story rather than have his secrets exposed. Learning the address of the IT firm that stores the Star's data, Oliver becomes Green Arrow and goes there to confront H-Tek, but instead has to deal with an exploding robot that knocks him out. GA wakes up to find security sticking guns in his face, demanding he explain what he's doing there.

Jonah Hex #67: Fleisher and DeZuniga continue Hex's trail of vengeance against the rogue cavalrymen responsible for the death of Jonah's fiancée, Cassie Wainright years ago. This time, it's Croy's turn. He's a gambler and cheat. He tracks Hex to the town of Careysburg and takes a shot at him through a hotel window but instead kills a barmaid visiting Hex for the evenings.
The next morning, Croy fires another rifle shot that creases the back of Hex's skull. A few locals bring him to Doc Brewster's office, and Hex begins to suffer from fever dreams. He recalls the events, which led to the death of Cassie.
The following day, Croy learns that Hex is still alive and decides to take another try. He barges into Brewster's office, but Hex seems fully recovered. Croy tries to get the drop on him by way of a concealed revolver in his sleeve, but Jonah shoots him twice in the chest before Croy can get a shot off.

New Adventures of Superboy #36: Kupperberg and Schaffenberger delve into the dangers of standardized testing in schools! A researcher (I guess) named William Wright administers a test in Smallville High School and is able to take mental control of a number of students there. He discovers that he commands mental power enough to defeat Superboy.
In the Dial-H for Hero backup by Bridwell and Bender, Chris is captured by the Master and his dial is taken by the villain who proceeds to dial himself a powered identity.

Hex Crawl 23 #255: Welcome to Pnokath

Roles & Rules - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:59

Nine hexes northwest, three north of Alakran.


Where does the province of Pnokath start, ask those who tread the northern forking of the road from Mehershal's Caravanserai, or slope across the lonely plain depicted here? Lore has it that you approach Pnokath when you see the great carved statues called the Petitioners of Fate, and you are there when each of them seems the size of a grain of barley againts the horizon -- which happens at the northern and eastern borders of this hex.

The land of Pnokath, in the northeast of Wahattu, was more prosperous and open-minded when the Salt Sea of Ghem was a thoroughfare and not a barrier. Now the mighty ports and sea fortresses along the shore are habited only by the mad and desperate. Commerce runs towards the road Nam'aa and thence to Mu-Asharru, the capital.

Fertile is the watershed of Pnokath's curved and shallow river Kathithi, which rises from the western slopes of the Scarp as the Nahlu-Galal, changes name in the vicinity of Eryptos, and voids into the Salt Sea. The land about is naturally flat and grassy, but not without quirks -- stands of ancestral pine whose gnarled branches weld a veritable architecture, sunken slime swamps where the water steams off too quickly to form a proper lake.

By tradition, Pnokath is the domain of the royal heir. His dwelling is in the ancient town Eryptos, a nexus of trade famous for its congregations of entertainers who seek to satisfy the jaded tastes of Wahattu's second court. The young Prince is become a man of fifteen, known still by his pre-dynastic name Radiant Gemsbok of Autumn. By all accounts a good-natured, righteous, but impulsive ruler in training, his sport is the hunting of the antelope that gave his name and abound in the northern reaches of the gentle Dhuga Hills, south of Eryptos. Fearlessly gregarious, he and his entourage are rarely absent from the night life of the town and its abundance of jesters, tumblers, dancers, harlots, pipers, and dicing tables. And yet he most scrupulously observes every rite of his station. In particular, his revelries are a staunch tradition, demonstrating a marked lack of sour feelings and ulterior designs toward the capital.

Built with ancient stones of its own ruins, clustered about the sprawling maze of the Principal Palace, the historic buildings of Eryptos number still only a fraction of those that once stood there, as bare foundations in the outskirts attest. The town is without walls, a custom dating from bygone eras in which royal heirs regularly schemed and fomented parricidal rebellion. Dried figs, dates, and the wondrous honey of Shuddud are some of the special produce of the Eryptum district. To the east sprawls the dull backwater of the province of Kellu, and to the west the more hopeful habitations of Tilillu, where ambitious men and women are born.

And yet, the greatest marvel lies south of town where the Kathithi gains its name, where that river wends among rows of red and brown sandstone formations carved over millennia into foreboding statues of kings, gods, giants, and dragons-- a miles-long array colloquially known as the Petitioners of Fate. The megalith of Tiamat is notorious as a place of execution, where the guilty are dropped without ceremony into one of the five maws from which there is no return. West of them, another carved formation in the shape of a rearing Bahamut with crystal horns houses the severe wizard Kul-gattur, retired from the cares of the world but with several former students ensconced in the town.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Deal of the Day - The Book of Collected Rumors from Philip Reed Games

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 01:42

Mention the name Phil Reed, and you immediately think of system-neutral resources for the harried DM. Phil literally gives you, the DM, the resources you need to zig when your players zag and to improvise with the best of them. The Collected Book of Rumors is such a tool, or rather, a collection of such tools. 

Normally 15 bucks in PDF, until tomorrow morning, The Collected Book of Rumors is on sale for 6 bucks

A collection of over 200 rumors for use with any fantasy roleplaying game. The Book of Collected Rumors was constructed from the content of seventeen different PDFs from the A Dozen . . . series. This duplicates material from the below PDFs:

  • A Dozen Disconcerting Rumors
  • A Dozen Dreadful Rumors
  • A Dozen Sinister Rumors
  • A Dozen Dire Rumors
  • A Dozen Troubling Rumors
  • A Dozen Distressing Rumors
  • A Dozen Frightening Rumors
  • A Dozen Terrifying Rumors
  • A Dozen Whispered Rumors
  • A Dozen Auspicious Rumors
  • A Dozen Loathsome Rumors
  • A Dozen Ominous Rumors
  • A Dozen Troublesome Rumors
  • A Dozen Vexing Rumors
  • A Dozen Rumors of Other Places
  • A Dozen Rumors of Lost Treasures
  • A Dozen Malefic Rumors

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. The Tavern DOES NOT do "Paid For" Articles and discloses personal connections to products and creators written about when applicable.

DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat cast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar    

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On 'Into the Caves of the Pestilent Abomination: An OSR adventure' By Marcelo P Augusto

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 01:28
 ""Something evil and cruel has been terrorizing the peaceful villagers of Woodsmen Village. Who will be the brave adventurers able to discover the source of this evil and restore peace to the land?"" Into the Caves of the Pestilent Abomination is a level 1-2 OSR adventure, all in old school fun."Into the Caves of the Pestilent Abomination: An OSR adventure By Marcelo P Augusto is a low level 1-2Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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