Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Wightmas (a few thoughts and an adventure revision)

As I run material that I've written, it gives me the opportunity to playtest and consider my work. Admittedly, most of my writing is relatively bog-standard, with some hopefully interesting baddies or environments to explore.  

Grumpy that you awoke him (source)

After reviewing my thoughts on the session and play notes, I thought that reworking Nigkoev's Uneasy Rest would be a good exercise. I wrote the original back in 2020, and I've refined(?) my writing a bit since then, plus play gave me an opportunity to see the awkward bits, as well as some painful typos...

First of all, I edited the baddie's name to be easier to pronounce. I have a penchant for random regional European names, occasionally those with too many consonants in a row. Then a bit of reformatting and paragraph breaks to make things easier to read and highlight. Some fixes to the content based on the playtest to increase challenges and provide a bit more information for the game-runner to describe the space. And added lists of rumors and wandering monsters for color and randomness. 

So here is the new and hopefully improved "Nikoev's Uneasy Rest." Enjoy.

I hope all had an enjoyable and safe Christmas, or whatever you may celebrate. Our travel was postponed by a little ice. Best to hunker down and wait for the thaw. 

Monday, December 19, 2022

Slowing Down to Speed Up. And, what's in that sketchy bottle?

So, I always ponder of how an encounter and/or combat could have gone better, or been more dynamic or smart. Part of the process of improving my planning, visualization, and improvisation as I continue my experiment in running games. 

Usually, the "Why didn't I do that?" moment comes while I'm walking the dogs the morning after. 

So returning to the recent "Something in the Water" session, I realized I could have played my bad-guy alchemist/water polluter way smarter. This being a pick-up, randomly generated session, I didn't have everything lined out, barely knowing what was in the next room before the PCs stumbled in. 

On reflection, I had the elements of a much more dynamic boss-fight, with a greater chance of having the bad guy either win or at least escape.

Since I'd described the end-game as a remote "lab" in the cave, complete with bubbling cauldron and other vessels, I had all the pieces to make a much more cinematic fight: the baddie (with sanctuary spell), a couple of surviving kobolds, and a bunch of random chemicals. 

After all, I'd run nearly the same scenario before, in my "Vats of Rats" con session. But in the moment of play, I didn't recall that scene, or even think of something as simple as having the baddies tip over the cauldron and bailing, leaving the PCs to either pursue or attempt to stop the flow of nasty alchemical concoction into the lake...

Which would have made a much more hectic moment as they watched their nemesis flee vs their concerns about the water and killer frogs...

So I would say that a takeaway from this is to slow down and imagine the space. 

We are playing TOTM, with maybe a map sketched out on paper or mat, so pausing to visualize and describe the room will better support both the GM and player engagement in the scene. If I can say that there is a cauldron here, a rack of vials there, and the baddies are standing there, it will both mentally settle me in the space, and give cues to the players to interact with that space, as well. 

In improv, we are often by necessity pantomiming props and objects as we develop the scene and other actor(s). So keeping a part of the mind on spatial awareness is key. Don't walk through a table. Remember that you have a drink in your hand. Take a moment to listen and "see" in order to keep the scene moving forward. Don't be afraid to pause and allow some silence.

The old adage, "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" applies here. I think that we (especially old school players) focus on keeping things fast and light, occasionally to the detriment of engagement. I know that my players ask about options or actions during combat, especially for spellcasters out of magic, or even fighters wanting to do something besides sword and board. Giving a fuller description will let people "see" the space and think, "What would I do?" or possibly, "What would be cool?" :) 

Anyway. More to consider...

Still Life with Bottles and Earthenware, Vincent van Gogh

That said, I figure everyone needs a random list of mystery bottles to be found in an alchemist's lair or arrayed around in some forgotten room. Especially when things start getting knocked over or tossed about... 

A portion of the list is borrowed from the previously mentioned Vats of Rats, with the rest being a half-baked list of potentially dangerous concoctions to end up in someone's face. 


Also, I uploaded the revised "Vats of Rats" adventure to DTRPG and as PWYW.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Nigkoev's Uneasy Rest - or - Ya Can't Keep a Good Zealot Down

Good evening, fair readers. Sunday night came, and with it, another foray into the lands around Neuforde.

I had expected a full table, so had prepared <REDACTED> with the <REDACTED> final boss battle and a <REDACTED> that I'm sure would have been able survive my players' crits. But we had a couple of last minute cancellations, and I had four at the table one arriving late. Such is life. So I put <REDACTED> on the reserve pile. It deserves a full table and an honest play review.

Tonight's cast:

  • Bonk the stabby fighter
  • Frederick the arachnophobe thief

and two new folks:

  • Urik, Cleric of Garond 
  • Spike - half-ork on a mission (who rolled a Nat 18 str)

Although OSE has a half-orc class, we just ran Spike as a fighter with a lot of flavor and an urge for righteous violence.

Game-night changes is why I keep a folder of maps/adventures. So I grabbed Nigkoev's Uneasy Rest off the bench and put it in the game.

The party sought out the tomb fueled by rumors of holy relics to further the cause of Garond's battle vs chaos.

[Spoilers for anyone who'd actually want to play in this space]

Finding the anachronistic fountain out in the wild, they spent some time poking and prodding at it. Enough rattling and jiggling finally released the hidden hatch, and Bonk entered the passageway, torch in hand. And was immediately covered in spiders:

Armed with torch and shield, he exterminated the pests. With shouts of encouragement from his brave companions above-ground. Frederick is not getting anywhere near venomous critters.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Monday Monster: The Smolder

Continuing with my attempt to rekindle a bit of spontaneous writing inspiration. Another piece of art found in the forums:

The smell of charred forest lingered as the party crossed the still-warm ground, ashy from the recent conflagration. Flickers of flame and threads of smoke rose from the dying burn. The stacked stones rose from the burned land, blackened and cracked, but whole. The storehouse of the artifacts of Chotarr, The Burning One.

"Looks clear, Custis! Nothing here but a dead charred cat. Thing probably got caught in the forest fire." 

"Odd. The fire's barely burned out. Wonder what started it."

"Probably goblins. Who cares, there's a hammer in there I've been seeking since the Battle Of Burning Plains." 

The two looters stepped on the platform of the crypt. They suddenly felt a wall of heat rising as an acrid burning filled their noses. A crack like a tree exploding in a forest fire sounded and they faced the "dead" panther, now animated and flaming.

by Andrea Radek

The Smolder: 

Feline elemental guardian/constructs, appearing in the form of a massive, charred panther. Created to guard temples and sacred places of the fire gods. Often called as guardian-companions to fire giants and similar primordial beings.

AC: 5/14

HD: 5+1

Atk: Bite/claw/claw 1d8/1d4/1d4 - on a successful hit, save or take an additional 1d8 heat damage

THAC0: 15 [+4]

Movement: 120' (40)

Saving Throws: D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 

Morale: 10

Special Abilities: Magical construct/elemental - Immune to mental magic. Magic required to hit/damage. 

If a smolder has been left to guard a location, there is a 5% chance per year (cumulative), that it will break free of its servitude and become a self-governing predator, prowling the area around its former station. Now treating the area as its territory, it will attack any encountered intruder. The prowling of a smolder will often set fires in its area, leaving its territory and surrounding terrain a charred, blighted locale.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Something in the Water: Saturday's Session

Got together with a couple of my players for a pick-up session and dinner last night. We met at a local bottle shop and grabbed to-go Thai. The cast of characters:

  • Jax - barbarian
  • Bonk - fighter
  • Stumbleduck - halfling
The party began their day with some leisurely fishing/breakfast after the previous session's Wyvern-giving celebration. Bonk and local fisherman Xusto Goyanes plied the river, while Jax fished from the shore and Stumbleduck oversaw the operation with a picnic breakfast.

Sure enough, the boat was attacked by a giant frog. The party dispatched it, and retrieved some gold in gut-treasure. Xusto added the frog to his drying rack with the remainder of the morning's catch. 

While the frogs are a common pest/hazard in the river, as the party has previously encountered, they typically shy away from settled areas, so this attack indicated increasing aggression from the amphibians. Something had changed recently, and the party figured an investigation was in order.

After some deliberation, the party opted to pursue an amphibious operation, with the three PCs on horseback, and Xustos and Herbie the Hook-handed Hireling following by boat (and perhaps playing bait, but that wasn't mentioned to them...). Angilbart Tunnelly, halfling tinkerer, and "cousin" to Stumbleduck, offered her the chance to field-test a repeating crossbow that he'd been working on. Excited by the new toy, Stumbleduck accepted.

The party worked their way upstream, finding nothing of value in their search. The land became wilder, and the shore overgrown. The party camped along the shore, pulling up the boat. On first watch, something was heard in the shoreline rushes. Bonk, on watch, woke the rest of the party. Stumbleduck tossed a torch to illuminate the area, and found herself staring at several pairs of bulbous eyes.

these guys

Friday, December 2, 2022

F'Norp's First Flight

Haven't written off a prompt for entirely too long, but this image came across my feed, and I decided this hapless fellow needed a story...

Via Toren Atkinson

F’Norp looked at the rickety contraption bodged together by the goblins. F’Norp always tried to be a good tribe member, but this made his guts twist uncomfortably. The breeze made the unevenly cut and stitched hides and fabric flutter and ripple. His guts burbled and he let loose a nervous fart. The goblins tittered.

“Now, Fnoop, or whatever your name is – just like we talked. This fine contraption will waft you like a leaf on the breeze above the Baron’s camp, and you let fly with my little gifts. They’ll never know what hit ‘em!” The bald, twitchy softskin conjurer waved his bony fingers at the fragile flier. Jorgagu had called him an alkimest or something like that, deemed too crazy for the softskins, so he sold his crafts to Lord Az'gezan and the horde instead. All F’Norp knew was that the little guy was pushy and that his tent smelled of acrid brews. One goblin assistant had lost a hand in a blast, and a second was blinded by some fetid spray. If the conjuror hadn’t been useful and under the protection of Az'gezan, he would have found himself wearing his guts as a hat.

F’Norp looked over the edge of the cliff. The treetops sure looked a long way down. He poked at the flier. A goblin smacked his hand away. A raven cawed.

A cart squeaked as two of the conjuror's surviving goblin assistants gingerly trundled their load up to the launch site.

“All right, Fjord, ready for your day as a hero? Ohh, this is going to be glorious!” The alkimest started to juggle a number of corked vials and bottles filled with viscous fluids. The goblins cringed a bit. “Now hold still, very delicate, you know. Get plenty lashed on and some spares on the craft. Ooo, this will be a show!”

F’Norp was a bit concerned. After all, the vials didn’t appear to be easily untied. Perhaps they’d give him a blade. But there sure were a lot of bottles.

Lord Az'gezan approached. This was the first time that F’Norp had ever been this close to His Putrescence. It was a heady experience. His voice boomed, “Minion, you are The Chosen Bombardier! Great Glory to you! You will Rain Discord in the camp of our enemy, Sowing Much Destruction and a Victory for The Cause!”

Arrayed with the vials and bottles, F’Norp was assisted into the flier. “Now lean in the direction you want to go, and you will be like a great bird of prey, Fneed!” crowed the scrawny alkimest. 

With a push and a heave, F’Norp found himself tossed from the clifftop. The spindly flier spiraled for a moment, caught a thermal, and suddenly climbed.

F’Norp realized that in the intoxicating moment of being addressed by His Putrescence, that he had forgotten to ask about releasing the bottles of reagents. They sure seemed bound securely to the frame of the flier, and to his limbs. Oh, and how to land. That would have been good to ask, too.

As the flier began its unstable descent toward the softskins’ battle camp, F’Norp felt the wind through his unruly mane, and heard its rush past his ears. He was flying! Terror passed to momentary exuberation. That crazy conjurer was right about one thing. It sure was a glorious sight up here.