Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Rivals: One-to-one Time and Random Campaign Development

Promotional art for the Dungeons &Dragons cartoon
©️1983 D&D Entertainment

Let me tell you about how my campaign started running itself  through a curious set of random rolls inspired by my rumor chart and one-to-one time.

My Xen campaign uses a modified version of the one-to-one time tracking that Stephen Smith uses in the Wierth campaign. When my players are in the middle of a dungeon, and we have to intercession, we pause and pick up where we left off. I keep track of the turns that have passed, and occasionally tell the players approximately how long they have been in the dungeon.

When we end outside of a dungeon, I handle the player characters' return to base myself. Rolling for random encounters if necessary, and handling combat in an abstract way if they should run into danger.

Given that my Player Characters got hold of a functional ornithopter, and kept it studiously repaired and fueled (until it was stolen,) I have not had much to do that regard.

How I Handle Time Between Sessions

Between sessions, I ration one week on Xen for downtime, which is 8 days 

I have set a 1-in-6 chance that something will happen during that time.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Xen Maps

 I recently picked up Campaign Cartographer 3 and have been teaching myself how to use it, so that I have an easier way to make maps for the adventure modules I like to put out into the world that I don't have to worry endlessly about the license for.

As an experiment I decided to do two maps for my Xen campaign.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Mosquito of DOOM!

Let me tell you about the TPK I nearly experienced this week, because it was awesome.

I've been traveling, and that means there's been a lot of long drives with my kids in the backseat. There's only so long I'm willing to let them watch cartoons on the tablet, because I don't want them cranky or crazy at the end of the drive. So, I gave my son a refresher on Tiny Dungeon 2E, and taught him how to design a quick and dirty five room dungeon.

After hearing some of my stories, he has decided to add his own flavor of gonzo play into the game.

While driving to a family function last Thursday, I created a mighty, axe-wielding warrior-mage, who was sent to save the souls of the dead from a powerful ghoul who was eating both body and spirit alike in a nearby tomb. After defeating the skeletal minions of the ghoul, and avoiding a trap, I discovered a skeletal warrior who still retained some of his mind. I asked the warrior what the ghoul's weakness was. My son replied in a spooky voice: "fabulousness."

I decided to run with it, and had my magician use his magic to clean himself up, wax his moustache, shine his gear, and dye his clothes. I made an entrance in a cloud of sparkling magical smoke. The Ghoul was rendered powerless by my sudden intense style and charisma. As I applied a magical makeover to the creature, it screamed and melted away.

Thus, Haxxus the Bold became Haxxus the Stunning.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

First Impressions: One D&D

 I've taken the time to sit down and read the first round of OneD&D material. It is pretty much exactly what I expected it to be. They're making a lot of serious changes to try to appeal to who they believe the critical role-driven audience is.

EDIT: I originally stated that Charm Person was not in the new spell lists. I checked twice and did not see it, but it is there. 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Silver Gull Update: Kaboom!

August 8th

Sneaking ahead, Reine discovered a room with cages and gates holding the hollow-eyed and tormented husks of the damned, manes, kept pennned for The Librarian's experiments. She made it only partway through the room before they all turned as one to gaze at her. Reine swiftly backed up to the party.

In whispered voices, they got their bound Succubus to explain what they were. But the explanation was cut short by the squeak of a metal gate. The PCs turned to see an army of the damned shuffling towards them.

Finch waded in, slaying four in a flurry of blows, giving Zee room to run up and brace herself to use the fully automatic mode on her automatic crossbow.

The Crossbow emptied an entire 6 pound drum of bolts, killing another 19 manes, leaving one startled creature left, which Reine promptly killed with a spear throw.

Sometimes, you have to give your PCs a mountain of 1HD mooks just to let them feel badass.

Friday, August 19, 2022

'Zine Review: Carcass Crawler Issues #1 & 2

: Necrotic Gnome
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG (1, 2), Exalted Funeral (1, 2)
System: Old School Essentials (OSR Compatible)

Carcass Crawler is the official magazine for Old School Essentials. I recently picked up both issues in an Old-School RPG humble Bundle. They offer optional rules, content and adventures for Old School Essentials.

Each issue uses the same trade dress as OSE, and so it is a clean layout and easy to read. While much of the content is more in the vein of Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy, the magazine always includes the neessary rules excerpts for groups that are only using Old School Essentials Classic Fantasy to integrate it into their campaign seamlessly. Likewise, relevant advice and sidebars from OSE: Advanced are often included in the magazine to give Referees context and ideas on how to use the material.

Because Old School Essentials Classic Fantasy is a 99% accurate clone of Moldvay-Cook Basic Dungeons & Dragons (with just a hint of Mentzer), the content of Carcass Crawler can be used with any other B/X-based OSR game without any serious adaptation, and should not be too difficult to adapt to an AD&D based one, either.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Way Shrines and Holy Sites as "Civilization"

The White Stone
By Nicholas Roerich c. 1933
I have an idea I am tinkering with that I wanted to share with my readers.

I am currently running (mostly) a by-the-book AD&D one-to-one game with my wife that draws a lot of inspiration from the game Path of Exile and from Divinity: Original Sin II. And that will draw more than a few ideas from the OSR game Delve 2e. Specifically, the PC will begin exiled on an island controlled by a cruel Lich who uses crystal hypnosis balls to turn powerful heroes into his brainwashed minions, then makes them bring him slaves to serve in her city.

The campaign will entail a lot of wilderness adventuring on a ruin-strewn island, often spending weeks at a time in hiding away from "town."

Normally, I give PCs XP for monsters when they have had a chance to rest in a civilized place after an adventure, and give them XP for treasure when that treasure is returned to civilization. But in this campaign, that might be difficult.

So I had a great idea that adds a little flavor to clerics:

  • Have them gain XP as if they had returned to civilization when they offer up prayers at remote shrines to their god.
  • The PC must have been initiated into that god's worship.
  • The Party cleric counts as an initiate and may initiate others who are of an appropriate alignment.
  • Any treasure left or burned as offerings are counted as "returned to civilization."
  • Taking back treasure from the shrine once it is offered not only takes away the ability to pray in the future, but causes the PC to become cursed with unluck until the treasure is returned and an atonement made.

This will have a handful of logical upshots to the game.

  • I can place shrines at places near where the PCs are likely to be, so that they can still gain xp between adventures while survivng in the wilds.
  • It will incentivize exploration, as they will be able to find the shrines mostly by scouring the hexes I place them in.
  • It makes sacrifice and offerings meaningful.
  • The PCs have an incentive to convert to one of the party's clerics' deities.
  • I have a reason to build an interesting pantheon.
  • The Cleric has an incentive to seek converts and recruit hirelings and henchmen of their faith.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Game Review: Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Cover for: Old School Essentials
Advanced Fantasy Player's Tome
Art by Peter Mullen
 ©️2020 Necrotic Gnome
Gavin Norman
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG, Exalted Funeral (hardcopy)
Engine: OSR Compatible (B/X and AD&D Fusion)

This is a review of the Advanced Fantasy version of Old School Essentials. You may find it helpful to read my recent review of Old School Essntials: Classic Fantasy to get some additional information on the game.

Old School Essentials: Classic Fantasy is an extremely popular OSR retroclone. It is a faithful recreation of the Moldvay Basic and Cook Expert boxed sets for Dungeons & Dragons. While it mostly keeps to the Moldvay rules set, many of the different rules from the later Mentzer version of B/X D&D and a few from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons are incorporated as optional rules. More modern quality-of-life options such as ThAC0 or, optionally, a base attack bonus and ascending AC.

Old School Essentials has a well-deserved reputation for being an extremely well-written, organized, and presented version of the Moldvay-Cook B/X version of the game: it is easy to read, easy to search, and likely easy to teach. It is by far the best-written and organized retroclone it has been my pleasure to read.

Cover for: Old School Essentials
Advanced Fantasy Referee's Tome
Art by Peter Mullen
 ©️2020 Necrotic Gnome
Old School Essentials: Advanced Fantasy aims to add in a number of options that were originally offered in the later supplements of the Original Dungeons & Dragons, and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions, and even a small set of D&D3e ideas. All of the options presented in OSE: Advanced have been re-imagined and reconceptualized to work with the B/X ruleset.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Game Review: Old School Essentials Classic Fantasy

Cover to the Old School Essentials
Classic Fantasy Rules Tome

Art by Peter Mullen
©️2019 Necrotic Gnome
Author: Gavin Norman
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG, Exalted Funeral (hardcopy)
Engine: OSR (B/X D&D)

I have been holding off on picking up Old-School Essentials by Gavin Norman for over a year. This wasn't because I wasn'r interested: I was. The delay was because I was holding out hope that Exalted Funeral's North American warehouses, once open, would bring shipping to Canada down to something reasonable. No such luck.

The buzz around OSE has been considerable since about the time I started this blog, and for good reason. When I saw almost the entire OSE catalog, plus a huge selection of material from Frog God Games all in one humble bundle, I jumped on it. it isn't the hardcopy boxed set that I was hoping for, but I am certainly glad that I finally had an opportunity to review it.

Friday, August 12, 2022

My Mystara Campaign that Never Was

Cover for GAZ-1 Gazetteer of the Known
World: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos
 I have run quite a few games set in the Mystara campaign setting in multiple editions of Dungeons & Dragons. As a kid I ran a few short campaigns in The Grand Duchy of Karameikos using BECMI. In Junior High I ran an AD&D2e mini campaign set on a few islands between Karamaikos and The Minrothad Guilds.  And I also ran a campaign that transitioned from BECMI to AD&D2e that was set ostensibly in Karameikos, the Broken Lands, and later The Isle of Dawn.

In 2005, I got nostalgic for Mystara and spent several days creating my own massive 3e conversion for it... and then disscovered the brnd new Vaults of Pandius had done a better job. Using a mix of my own conversion and theirs I ran a campaign I called "Mystara A-go-go" which involved the PCs freely travelling Mystara following clues of a dead treasure hunter from Karameikos to Minrothad to Irendi to the Five Shires, Darokin, Glantri, Norwold, and into the Thyatian Empire. (with stops in Pandius and Patera)

In 2007 I followed that one up with another campaign that strung Wrath of the Immortals, Adventures in Blackmoor, and Temple of the Frog into a single time-spanning adventure that covered  the entire secret history of Mystara from Blackmoor to the Cataclysm, to the creation of the Hollow World, to the Day of Wrath.

Recently, I've been getting the Mystara bug again, but I have decided to let it be. I have two campaigns right now that are taking up enough attention. But to scratch the itch at least a little, I wanted to share a campaign idea I was working on in 2005 that I never used. Maybe someone else will have use of it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Play Report: Arête

 I wanted to give an account of my solo experience with the adventure module Arete, which I reviewed in my previous article, to give you an idea of how this high-octane, high-powered first level adventure played out for me. 

Not having OSE on me, I grabbed Swords & Wizardry for most rules and my brand new AD&D Monster Manual for treasure types and In Lair rolls. I established that I would treat 0hp as unconscious and dying, and -3hp as dead, and otherwise keep to vanilla S&W, although I used the Monsters' saving throws published in the module.

I chose to run the game using a party made up of Hector, Bellerophon, Perseus, and Medea. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Adventure Module Review: Arête

Author: Ahimsa Kerp
Publisher: Knight Owl Press
System: Old School Essentials (Advanced)
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG

The other night I was browsing through DrivethruRPG when an adventure module, Arête caught my eye. I looked over it and tossed it on my wishlist. The gods must have been watching, as the next morning one of the first things to cross my twitter feed was Ahimsa Kerr asking if anyone wanted a review copy of Arête. And I am really glad that I hit him up!

Arête is an adventure module intended to be used as a one-shot for Old-School Essentials, and includes some characters using classes from the Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy rules.

The premise of the adventure is simple: Cerberus has run away, and monsters across Mythic Greece are running amok due to his presence. As the Underworld is already overflowing, Hades selects a number of great heroes and offers to return them to the land of the living if they will return Cerberus and quell the monsters.

The characters are pregenerated OSE characters based on Ancient Greek heroes such as Orpheus, Medea, Theseus, Atlanta, and Bellerophon. Aside from reasonably good stats for an OSE character, they each have a special power, a special advantage against one foe or type of foe, and one special weakness. These are taken straight out of myths about the character and made mechanically apropos to OSE.

The characters begin at first level, and the monsters have had new stat blocks tailored to make the scenario work without inflating levels.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Tools for Creating Gossip

‘He took his place once more on the
bench at the inn-door’
by Arthur Rackham c.1910
If you are running an Open Sandbox style of campaign, you need three things to start: a small area to explore stocked with a few adventure sites, a town or village for a first home base, and information that helps the PCs find the adventure sites from the home base.

That last one can take a number of forms: strange lights or smoke on the horizon, a job from a local patron, the site visible from a distance, someone staggering into the wilderness pleading for help... there are dozens of ways to seed information into your town, but one of the most valuable ways is by having gossip that the players can pick up around town.

Twitter user @SivorKhalid mentioned in response to my article on using gossip as a campaign tracking tool that he has trouble coming up with rumors, so I thought I would try to create a helpful resource. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Silver Gull Campaign Update: A Litte "Julius Ceasar"

  I found my original hex map drawn for the region around town of Orhan that became the Imrani Waste as my "Silver Gull" Swords & Wizardry campaign advanced.  

It is stunning to me that this A5 page of notes managed to spur 21 sessions of my campaign (the first two were set in a dungeon hundreds of miles away.

Campaign Update

Some of my readers asked me to keep them posted about the events of the Silver Gull campaign, so I wanted to post a quick one here.

July 25th

On the eve of the Fall Equinox, the PCs flew to the mouth of the Oracle of inkandus, armed with clockwork horrors, alchemical mortars, and magic weapons. They instructed their succubus minion, Delgradia, to help them put the host at ease.

The host, once summoned with a sacrifice of prickly pear wine, led them through the upper floor of the Oracle to an ancient theatre. Finch took the stage and begane doing a comedic routine to amuse the demon that ended with the party's go-word for violence: "pineapples"