Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Shot First

I am not above whoring myself out for some extra xp and that's what I'm doing with this post.  +Erik Tenkar ran his StarSlinger setting using +James Spahn's White Star system last night.  It has been many months since the B-Team got together.  +Douglas Cole and +Peter V. Dell'Orto rounded off our group for the night.

We decided earlier in the week to roll character for the first session.  Erik has a few very cool classes in his StarSlinger setting including the Scoundrel.  He suggested I give it a try because one of the class abilities is:
First Strike - Once per day the Scoundrel can make a saving throw (adjusted by Charisma bonus if any) before entering combat. If successful, the Scoundrel has the drop on his / her opponents and has a free attack (also adjusted by and Charisma bonus) before initiative is rolled. If the roll is failed, initiative and combat proceeds as normal.
I'm notorious for my bad rolls across any system, d20, 3d6, 2d6, and I even suck at flipping coins.  Erik said with the Scoundrel class I could get in one free shot.

I liked the idea of a con man.  Peter played a grizzled old Star Knight named Velo and Doug played a mercenary named Payne.  My guy was named Chicago Jones.  

Short of the long of it, we contract with a bad guy named Kyn Vitman.  Our group couldn't buy a box of Girl Scout cookies and I think Kyn knew it.  He wanted us to find a ship that crashed about a half's day ride away from his bar and recover Avionic Bovine DNA.  1000 units or credits, I can't remember which, for the job minus expenses.  We had no room to negotiate.  So we agreed.

Payne and Chicago traveled light, laser pistols, a little armor and a dagger.  Old Velo brought everything, he had a tent, flashlight, sleeping bag, a Ronco Record Cleaner and a med kit.  We took hover bikes to the site.  While we scouted around the ship I nearly did a header off my bike because something flashed in my eyes.  Someone was there, but we needed to get that DNA sample.  Were were already in the hole because the cost of the bikes was coming out of our pocket.

In we went. We explored the weirdly constructed ship.  One of the weird things was we didn't find any crew, dead or alive.  However, not too far into the ship we encountered a three men I imagine were the ones on the cliff.  Payne and Chicago cover the hallway they came through.  Velo was in the other room searching.  I was able to hit the first one who attempted to run through and Payne shot a big old hole through the second one.  The third one ran away screaming like a little girl.   

Velo soon after got munched on by a smart cockroach.  Velo fell down and twitched, but he lived.  After we disposed of the bugs we used the well prepared Velo's medic kit on him and wa-la, he rose from the almost dead. 

We were able to get a computer up and running.  Discovered where the sample was and fast tracked it over there.  When we got there, 250 some DNA samples were waiting for us.  We found the one Kyn wanted and used Velo's sleeping bag as a huge sack. 

When we left the ship there were three men waiting for us.  A little guy who did the talking and two meatheads.  I used my Scoundrel skill of attacking before anyone else.  Chicago allowed the little talking man to finish his ultimatum before shooting him in the heart.  While the little gurgling man lay on the ground, the two meatheads raised their hands and walked off.

We scored 650 credits off the little man.  And a piece of paper I recognized as a black market number.  I used my contact Leroy to trace the number, apparently someone offered 2500 credits to get the DNA sample from us.  I figure we could sell a bogus sample (since we scored all of them) and then sell the real one to Kyn.  

So the drop off was a bathroom.  I sat in one stall, another guy came into the other stall and slit a 2500 cred card under and I gave him the bogus sample.  We weren't quick enough to see who it was.

So we travel back to Kyn's place.  He looks surprised.  I knew then who my stall companion had been.  After a short discussion we sell him the sample he wanted and included all of the ones we took.  I tried to wheel and deal for more, but didn't get too far.  However we did score 3500 credits from him and did not have to pay for the bike rental.  

Payne and I leveled to second, Velo came up short.  Now I get 10% more xp.

Had a blast.  Glad to be playing with the B-Team again. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Vision of the Raven

Part 2 of our Wednesday night game session.

The tax collector led the party to a manor tucked away in a almost idyllic setting.  The orchards and fields were healthy and the manor itself was extremely well care for.  The manor was little more than a three-story stone keep that looked to have been standing there for centuries.  Outside the manor was a couple dozen buildings.

The party entered the manor to be greeted by Kurn, the Steward, a gruff older man wearing light armor and a sword at his side.  He questioned the tax collector and thanked the party for their efforts.  He informed the party the lord could offer them a night lodgings and a meal in the hall, but they would have to leave in the morning. The party accepted.

The bell for the last meal of the day was sounded and the party entered the hall.  They were there with a mage, who Phrandor identified as a man from House Benifore.  A small collection of mages known for the acts of generosity.  And a young man who seemed to have a perpetual smug and bored expression on his face.

Lord Walsh enters, a middle-aged man, well dressed with a sense of old nobility.  He is very curious about the party and the adventures they've been on.  He is a gracious host and praises the party's courage for their deeds and their character for helping his man out of a very bad situation.

Lord Walsh then entreats the party for assistance with the same bandits.  He fears that someone within his own manor is providing the bandits with information.  The reason why he is reaching out to the party.  The party and Lord Walsh agree to a set price, but he has a stipulation, that the party needs to take his son along.  To teach him what it is to be a man and not a boy raised with privilege.  The boy argues and at that point the party sees rage overcome Lord Walsh's face as he slaps his son.

That night, while keeping watch, Phrandor thought he heard a scream.  Muffled and distant.

In the morning the boy arrived and began barking out orders.  It didn't take long for the party to discipline him.  With a few whacks he fell into line.

As they neared they made it to the main road they saw a storm coming.  Odo thought he saw an image of a raven within the lightning and dark of the clouds.  The storm grew worse and the party scrambled for cover.  As they stood among the trees they heard voices.  With the quick flashes of the lightening they spotted six humaniod birdmen in the tree above them.

End of session. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Making 'It' Up as You Go

Next Gen Session Stats
GM: Me
Players: +Ken H  (as Phrandor) & +Chris C. (as Odo)
Henchmen: Elizabeth, Oliva, Ragnor, Ravenna
Converts to the Goddess: PShaw
System: Pits & Perils
# of Killed Henchmen: 0
# of Visions: 4
# of Bandits Killed: 2
# of Tax Collectors saved: 1
# of Shitheads slapped: 1
# of Gold pieces gained: 120gp total
# of Drunk Henchmen: 1
# of Suspicious Nobles: 1
# of Mysterious Mages: 1
# of Bird Men: 6

 Last night was my turn to GM in our Wednesday night rotation.  I've had a very busy week at work and over the weekend I just his a brain dead zone so my adventure prep was nearly non-existent.  While I was tired from the week I really wanted to play.  I had a very sparse outline, a few encounters and a picture to draw inspiration from.  I took that and ran it last night.

One of the things I like to do when running (or writing) an adventure is to add small details to add depth or some semblance of a living world.  Give the spaces a lived in feeling.  Whether I succeed or not you would have to ask my players.

The adventure started off with the party returning to the main campaign area after saving an outlying village from a demon.  While traveling, the cleric Odo, spotted a raven with a white breast.  Ravens are known to be the messengers of the gods.  How they communicate the messages vary.  Odo approached the raven and was immediately struck by the image of a raven hanging upside down with a man forming out of the feather on top.  Over his right shoulder there is light, but from the light there is scream and shouting.  Some of the shouts are ones he has heard in the past.  And over the man's left shoulder is darkness.  From the darkness sound of inhuman growls and horrific cacophony of misery.

Adventure Note:  Our adventures have all had a strong religious seasoning to them.  Dualism has played a strong part in our sessions, especially my adventures.  With his training and intensive studies, Odo interpreted the meaning as a clash or a gathering of the armies of light and the armies of darkness.

When Odo awoke from his vision he heard one of the screams he heard in the vision.  A man yelling for help.  They came upon a older man holding the head of his mule that had been viciously attacked and bleeding from a large wound in its neck.  Odo was able to heal the mule (with exceptional success I might add).  The man was very thankful, but told them two men had killed his mule and took his two sacks of grain. 

He pointed to the other side of the ravine.  Two men were climbing their way up the other side.  The party went after them.  As the party reached the bottom of the ravine the bandits stood atop the other side.  They were going to throw rocks at the party and mock them, but Phrandor 'bolted' one of them causing significant damage.  And the archers let loose with some arrows that also caused more damage.

Adventure Note: Spell slots in Pits & Perils are a precious commodity so the fact that Odo use one on a mule and Phrandor used one (three total by the end of the fight) on a bandit was a significant use of resources. 

The party killed both bandits.  They dropped the sacks of grain fleeing.  Phrandor discovered that within the sack of grain were twenty small pouches with 10gp inside of each.  Odo check the sack of grain he recovered and it also had gold within.  There was a seal on a few of the pouches and both recognized it as a seal from a tax collector.  

They returned the grain without immediately telling the man they knew what was inside.  He evaded most of their questions and insisted on leaving, but the party insisted they escort him to his destination.  While having this conversation, Odo saw the image of this man's face on the darkness side.

 Coming Soon:
Part 2: Arriving at the Manor of Lord Walsh

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Yes Virginia, You Can Kill Them With Kindness
Bob the Werebear by ZeeJayWong
Last night I'll give the short of it.  A halfling rogue, an elven archer and a healing mage walking into a village of lycanthropes and pick a fight.  What we lacked in tactics, we made up for it by our desperation and ability to scream like little girls.  Yeah, we were in a shitstorm and we didn't have to decency to get to the outhouse.

Quick note: we are using a combination of the Fantasy Age and Dragon Age and houseruled system.  +Dwayne Gillingham is using the Majestic Wilderlands as his setting and has introduced a whole new conglomeration of dimensional traveler to stir up the setting.  +Rob Conley's character died last week in a dual to the death and in doing so destroying his clan.  For this session he played a halfling rogue.  And +Daniel McEntee is playing an elven archer.  I am playing the eldest character, a magic with a focus on healing and lightning...and rolling crappy.

Back to the shitstorm.  We arrived in the village made up of lycanthropes...assassins...worshipers of Kali.  Yeah, it was bad.  We were to deliver a message to the Claws of Kali (Assassins) by burying a crystal in the shape of a flame in the middle of their village. 

We could have done it at night.

We could have snuck into the village.

Hell, we could have just buried it quickly and left.

Nope.  We walked into town, middle of the day, went to the tavern first (which I thought was a nice touch), alerted everyone we possibly could short of putting an ad in the assassins quarterly and then decided it was time to bury this crystal.

We fought wererats, wereboars and werebears.  They bit and clawed at us.  And our rolls reflected our tactlessness.

While my lightning attacks are nasty, they require me to roll high just to get the spell off and it cost a tidy sum in mana to cast.  So I went on a whim and tried another route.  My class specialty is Miracle Worker and by adding extra mana to my healing spell I can also cure.  So I took the chance, it was a much lower target threshold to be successful and the mana cost was much more economical.  So I cured them of their lycanthropy. 

Dwayne allowed it with the provision that would get a resist check.  Which I think I was able to cure two of the group, including one of the werebears. 

So kids, let that be a lesson to you.  While you can knock them down with some lightning you might be able to cast, take them all the way out with a single heal and a smile.  Yes Virginia, you can kill them with kindness. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Flashdrive of Unfinished Adventures

This is a snapshot of my Sunday afternoon.  I've really taken to focusing on writing on Sundays.  I do it through the week in drips and drops, but Sunday I get a solid block of time to focus on developing my adventures.  Ivy knows when I am getting antsy so she sets me up with our bookstore at home.  She cleans off the table, moves it to face the woods behind our home, makes a batch of the best smelling coffee, Folgers Vanilla Biscotti, grabs my coffee mug from the the now extinct bookstore of Borders, plugs in the laptop and I grab my iPod, Bose headphones and my flashdrive full of  adventures I haven't finished.

One of my micro-adventures has gotten out of control.  Normally I'll beat it and cut it down until it fits, but I decided to ride this one out, to see what would develop.  What's developed is a sandbox adventure.  Right now I can think of four scenarios that will fit into the hex I'm drawing.  That's the map on the laptop.  I didn't take a closer picture of it because I didn't want my players getting a sneak peek.  Plus, this is one I'll probably playtest and get opinions.  

Because I am horrible at keeping secrets, you can also see the Fiend Folio to the left.  I plan on featuring a few of its inhabitants in the ecology of the hex.  I love flipping through my old gaming books because ideas start popping into my head.  This is where I get into trouble.  More ideas than time and ability.

I like keeping projects short otherwise I lose focus and drift to the next project.  Thus my flashdrive of unfinished adventures.  But I like this one enough that I've commissioned +Jim Magnusson to do the art for it.  Right now I'm still hashing out what art I'll need.

Back to the table for me.  The coffee is hot, the weather is cold, the scene is beautiful and in my mind I imagine grimlocks crawling out of fissures in the black of night, swarming across the land, silent, hungry, and in the distance they turn their sightless eyes to the north, the slightest of noise, they turn as a single entity and increase their pace.  They will eat tonight. 

In between cups of coffee.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

When Fireballs Go Bad

This is one of a few maps I made a little while ago.  For some reason the title for this one screams, When Fireballs Go Bad.  Or good depending on which end of it you were on.  Toying with some ideas for this one. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mystery in Adventures

Wednesday night is the rotating GM group.  Three of us take turns running adventures in a shared world.  And its worked out fantastic.  What I find interesting with our small group is our trend toward creating mystery adventures. 

We are at the end of the 5th adventure.  +Chris C. has run two, +Ken H is finishing his second adventure and I have run one and working on the next adventure.  Both of Ken's and Chris's adventures have been based around a mystery.

Chris's first adventure was about a disappearance of a girl coupled with the appearance of savage wolves.  The second adventure he ran created a distraction, we were to investigate the catacombs where the priest said the restless spirit of their saint was seen and the rumors of an evil cult moving into the area.  We needed to discover why the saint was restless, but discovered something very different.

Ken's first adventure played off of Chris's where the village was encountering savage wolf attacks, or at least that's what it seemed.  Conflicting religious cults came into play and we needed to follow the clues of these cults to discover what was attacking the villagers.  Ken's current adventure is a heck of a mystery/puzzle.  We are in a village populated by an almost alien race of people who have a 'Stepford Wife' personality.  A fog came in recently and three folks are gone, but none of the villagers react much to the news.  We've discovered hidden things within the village.  Creepy, hidden things.  And now we have to collect various items to solve the mystery.

What I've enjoyed about all these adventures was the sense of discovery.  These small 'aha' moments are built into them.  We investigate what we believe is the problem, make a small discovery that will either confirm we are on the right path or something that we may have to reevaluate our current assumption.  So Chris and Ken have built these small sandbox mysteries where we can solve the situation in more than one way.  And I think that's critical.  Nothing can kill an adventure more quickly than a party missing 'the clue'.  That bottleneck clue that halts the adventure unless it is found and interpreted correctly.  With a sandbox mystery there are several ways to discover the clues, in any order and can solve the mystery in several ways. 

I give props to my fellow gamers who have really upped the bar with their adventures.  It's been a fantastic time and an education. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Houghington House

The Houghington House is that mysterious place just outside the village that folks tend to avoid.  While the villagers keep their respective distance from the house, visitors who have stayed there come away refreshed and positive.  But there have been those few who dared to provoke the spirits within only to find themselves stricken with the worst luck.

The Houghington House is a location to place in any village that needs a spot of interest.  If your players are wandering through, and no inn is available, the locals suggest staying at the Housington House, but also warn them against upsetting the spirits, and explain no further.  Now your players have an interesting place to stay and recover.  Sometimes a small touch enhances the atmosphere of the journey and that is the intent of The Houghington House. 

These small locations are something I love to write up.  When I run a game or a larger campaign I fill a notebook with tiny area to randomly place when I need something of interest to occur. 


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

On the Banks of Pulling Creek

Howdy folks, this is my first entry into my Patreon offering of 2016.  On the Banks of Pulling Creek is a micro-location.  Someone recently asked what is the difference between my micro-adventures and micro-locations.  A micro-adventure is a very small area with obstacles to over come.  Obstacles come in the form of monsters, traps, puzzles or a situation that needs resolved.  A micro-location is built to promote adventures and situations.  A place for adventurers to wander through and the GM to provide them the local flavor and possible adventure hooks.  A staging place.

On the Banks of Pulling Creek the prominent feature is the Temple of Aquain and its priest, Rendel.  While he has gone rogue from the church, he still commands some respect in the area and is accompanied by two acolytes.  Because the church does not recognize his project he has found other means to supplement the repairs and the primary one is doing business with smugglers led by Rud Cutter.  Their relationship is tense.

You have a bit of history of the area with Blood Boulder, an ancient sacrificial rock that is still stained with blood even after centuries.  You've got the blood hawk who hunts the creek for fish and uses Scarin Island as a killing ground.  A mysterious set of stairs that ends 15' deep.  Who built it?  Why?  Or more to the point for adventurers, what the hell could be behind it?  And finally a local resource that has yet to be discovered.  And its discovery could change this entire area overnight.

With those situations I provide I hope to give depth to the area that GM can run with.  Maybe build an adventure around or just use it as an interesting spot along the way. 

So starts my 2016 campaign and I have to say 2015 was fantastic and a huge success for me.  Anyone can go grab the PDF of On the Banks of Pulling Creek, along with a players and GM map.  My fantastic patrons at the $2.50 and above level will receive a laminated copy of it in the mail. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Dungeon Room & Hex Crawl Encounter Card

For a while now I've been using a pair of simple d12 tables to help me randomly create content.  I always had them in a notebook I could only find half the time.  Or had them in a file on my home computer, but when I went to the bookstore never had access to them.

My solution, as it is for many things these days, create a card and laminate the bastard.  Now I can keep one of these in my computer bag and whip it out when needed.  And if I spill my coffee drink all over it will be the one safe thing on the table. 

I did a batch of these cards today.  I have no plans for them yet.  Maybe someone can come up with a good idea. 

The picture shows the front and back of the card.  Very simple format.  I fiddled with textured background and sepia and other crap I didn't like.  I kept it simple and straight forward.   +William McAusland's art is the only ornamentation the card needed.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Last Micro-Adventure of 2015

It has been a fantastic year for my Patreon campaign.  I started 2015 with 28 patrons and ended the year with 66.  A lot of good people who have supported me in the past and present.  It's been an interesting exercise creating these.  Because of the limited size I've had to become more economical with my words.  I've toyed with more mapping techniques and different ways to scan and alter maps.  And I got to play with different types of layout to see what works and what doesn't.  It's been a real education.  In 2015 I completed 24 micro-adventures and 7 micro-locations.

Secrets of the Ancient Mine is my 40th micro-adventure released on Patreon.  My $5 patrons and above will receive the adventure with to cardstock sheet folded in a faux-zine look.  The inside of the cover is the big map and the second sheet is the adventure.  I was going to go with a regular sheet of paper, but I liked the feel and look of the two cardstock pieces.

Also this month patrons at the $2.50 level and above get a laminated copy of the Broken Bridge Inn.  The picture shows the uncut sheets.  They'll be processed over the weekend.

Anyone can click on the links and download the PDF for free, but if you want a print version then join in the fun.  While I share nearly everything I create for free, I sometimes add exclusive content for my patrons.

Enough of that.  Time for the bookstore and more writing.