Thursday, May 18, 2023

Returning to the Campaign

Back at the table, and as I mentioned before- the pick-up game is now a 'real' campaign. Scary.

Who made it tonight?

  • Frederick - Thief
  • Waegstan, née Bonk - Fighter
  • Jax - Barbarian (and Goober)
  • Fulvus - Halfling
  • Mareth - Elf

Since we'd been away from the table for about four weeks, I took a page from Gary G. and declared that four weeks had past in game-time as well. What have our heroes been up to in the meantime?

  • Frederick - continuing to look for "unsecured loads" along the trade road with his halfling compatriots, as well as getting coastal traffic updates from the "Road Safety Committee" along the coast.
  • Waegstan - Fishing, hanging out with the river boatmen, and advocating for a new sport of fish-tossing.
  • Jax - Plant-hunting and studying from a sketchy herbal remedies book that she bought off a traveling bookseller.
  • Fulvus - Negotiating with the town leadership to purchase a plot for the construction of a brewery.
  • Mareth - Supervising the charmed ogre (Ogre #2 made his saving throw and wandered off) in ditch/palisade construction and making awkward attempts at negotiation when the ditch cut through someone's field.

Hugo, the gnome apothecary, had to leave town under urgent conditions, but left a "recently-developed" potion for the party to try out, along with a substantial list of possible side-effects.

The party also checked in with their compatriot Victor Matui, who is rebuilding his family keep outside of town. Victor's advisor Firmin had sent missives east to a colleague regarding information on the "Barrier," and had received some minor information in return, pending further discreet inquiries. Likewise, the chip of glass from the cracked hemisphere found in the watchtower appeared to be either ruby or some ruby-like alloy. If so, it would have required both an exceptional furnace and skill to create.

Sometime during this, a patrol representing the Hougon Duchy arrived in town. The captain noted the town growth and beginnings of fortifications. As a representative of the duchy, he offered the duchy's support and protection. For reasonable accommodations and financial support, of course. The town mayor conferred with the party, and they agreed to consider the offer, sending the patrol on their way. Which led to discussions on the with of becoming a vassal, whether this power was a viable ally, and a potential third way of developing their own power center or allegiances.

With that, the party set off to see if they could locate another 'node' of the Barrier.

The party re-located the overgrown road and returned to the watchtower location. While there, they were set upon by a band of goblins. Slaying half their number, and taking some minor damage, the remainder of the goblins fled, and the party continued south. 

Spotting some more ruins in the woods, the party investigated. The structure appeared to be a fortified manor or caravanserai. As per usual, Fulvus, Frederick, and Mareth crept about. Fulvus took advantage of the halfling ability to hide in the woods, but the dice rolled 00, and for once, he stumbled.

Waegstan walked up to the front door.

To be greeted by a pair of gnolls. Combat happened, with the party bum-rushing the entrance while being sniped and attacked. Some back-and-forth, and the party defeated the first two, only to be set upon by reinforcements. Again, they managed to overcome and scare away these opponents, before being attacked by the leader and his guards. Sometime in the midst of battle, Waegstan lost another hireling... Mareth webbed the boss gnoll after he had attempted to frighten Waegstan with an illusory opponent. Another round or two and the gnoll shaman was left alone and sticky. 

Mareth questioned him regarding their motives, and upon learning that they were capturing slaves, did the fellow in. The party cleared the rooms, finding four prisoners - a pair of merchants and their guards. Noting that the first floor of the manor didn't quite line up correctly, they deduced a secret room and found its access. 

Of course they rolled exceedingly well and did in my undead fire-breathing knight in one round. No need to belabor that point...

Collecting their loot, the group decided to rest for the night.

And with that, we'll see what happens next time...

DM Notes:

It was good to get back to the table after a few weeks off. We did a bit more world-building, and I was able to share some more of my framework of the world. I may have mentioned before, I count myself very fortunate to have acquired a group of players who are both fun folks and amicable to my style of game-running and world-building. It’s been one of the good things to happen to me this year.

The campaign world. We're somewhere 
on the west coast of the sea...

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

What's In My GM Bag?

It's been a few weeks. The brewery game went on hiatus as I paused to shift more into campaign mode, as well as spending a couple of weeks back on the Plains helping out my dad.  

Joethelawyer recently posted a "What's in my DM Game Bag?" video, and I've seen a number of other similar videos and posts over the years. Having the need to write a bit, let's go rooting through my bag, shall we?

I am an itinerant GM, with the majority of my play at cons, the FLGS, and now, the neighborhood brewery. So things are kept relatively compact. The majority of my game detritus lives in an expandable folio containing four folders:

1. Pre-gen characters and blank character sheets.

2. DM "Game Night" Aids: These are references to grab quickly for at the table use. Mostly comprised of houserules, campaign lore, a printed spreadsheet with loot and items accumulated by the party, local area random encounters, pre-rolled random treasure, NPC names and stats ,and local maps.

3. DM Aids: These are backup references or less commonly needed resources, as well as a few rules ganked from other games: Turn tracking, 2d6 usage guidance, the random headgear table, carousing rules, miscellaneous random tables for prompts, table safety, the Miscellaneum of Cinder

4. Maps and more maps: Some are statted up, either formally, or sketched out encounters, and lots of barrows

Also contained in the folio are:

  • Graph paper: For at-the-table mapping
  • Post-it notes
  • Extra pens

Along with the folio, the bag carries:

My Dice: Two sets of Zucati dice, selected for being slightly oversized, with readable numbers for low light/aging eyes.

A few sets of spare giveaway dice, pulled from a gallon bag of random dice that we somehow acquired.

dot-grid notebook for game notes and session writeups.

Rule books for table reference, currently the OSE rules tome.

Possibly additional session-specific references, such as spells or monsters, as necessary, to keep the players guessing.

Wet-erase mat, typically only used at con or game store games where I know I'll have table space.

Everything (except the mat) gets stuffed into a messenger bag, and we're good to go kill some stuff.

What's in your GM go-bag?

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Returning to the Watchtower, or, More Fun With OP Old-School Spells

Whew, that was a session....

So the gang got together for a bit more restrained mischief. We had:

  • Frederick - Thief
  • Slick - Another Thief
  • Waegstan, née Bonk - Fighter
  • Jax - Barbarian
  • Rondel - Elf
  • Mareth - Another Elf
First of all, we made sure that the charmed ogres are fed and busy digging a ditch around town. They like a job to do, after all... Although there is some grumbling regarding the local mutton supply.

Next, trailing a caravan came a gnome driving a somewhat odorous wagon. Hugo was his name, and he claimed to be a seller of potions of a restorative nature. After some haggling, the party were the proud owners of four "healing" potions of dubious quality. (Hugo is an NPC stolen/borrowed from other friends' campaigns, so has been putting some serious mileage on that wagon.)

After a brief discussion, it was confirmed that the party intended to revisit the tower explored in the last session. With the excitement of charming ogres and all, they hadn't given the space a good once-over.

Which was good, since I'd actually prepped for this... 

Tower and inevitable underground bits

The party returned to the locale with no wandering ogres or other critters encountered. Waegstan, always optimistic, strode toward the tower, taking arrow fire. Determining that the tower was now guarded by hobgoblins, the party made plans. Waegstan continued to dodge arrows as the two thieves successfully reached the door unnoticed. The remainder of the party wisely provided cover fire from the trees. 

Frederick and Slick breached the door SWAT-style, taking a third hob by surprise and quickly dispatching him. The two headed upstairs, as most of the remainder of the party now rushed the tower. The remaining roof hobgoblins were done in with minor injury.

This gave the party time to inspect a plinth with a cracked red glass hemisphere previously noted in the tower main level. After some poking about, they decided to chip off a bit of the glass for later analysis.

They continued downstairs, further inspecting the black stone column extending down from the plinth above, finding it slightly magnetic.

They continued down through previously-cleared chambers. Mareth planned to rig a passageway with a tripwire and bell, then found that someone had had the same idea, discovering a tripwire and metallic sphere. The thieves disarmed the trap, with Slick pocketing the new find.

Continuing down, the party found a lantern left burning in the former "ogre wrestling arena."

Making their way cautiously down the twisted corridor, they soon head voices. Mareth crept ahead to see a second party in the old alter space, making some sort of preparation. He and Slick were in the process of planning to re-set the found booby trap in the passageway, when they were heard/spotted. 

Time for shenanigans. 

The opposing party consisted of two clerics, two fighters, and a mage. Baddies, of course. I'd described them to the players, and the mage in copper robes became the focus (She was first level and not actually the leader, but hey, fancy robes!) In the meantime, the two fighters closed, blocking the passage as Waegstan closed with them. Unfortunately, he was struck by a wave of weakness from a spell cast from one of the clerics. Seeing the fighter wobbling, Mareth threw a flask of oil, striking the fighters, and setting them ablaze. The party attempted to close when they were hit by a color spray from Robes. At this point, everyone but Mareth and Goober the Wardog were blinded. Retreat!

Struggling to blind-fight their way back up the passage, Mareth took a magic missile from the opposing mage, and somewhere in the chaos she was killed in turn. Poor Waegstan now took a hold person, now becoming a blind, weak statue (worst save rolls ever). Frederick blindly felt his way into an alcove and utilized his scarf of limited invisibility.

Things were not looking good for our heroes. Fortunately one of the two fighters had succumbed to burn damage, leaving three opponents. The party managed initiative rolls and almost made it to a doorway before being caught by the foes. Thankfully, vision was beginning to clear at this moment. The baddies yelled that they were holding Waegstan hostage, and departing would be the best course of action. Mareth was in bad shape, and took a risk with one of Hugo's potions. It actually worked (this time). 

Not willing to leave a man behind, the party replied with violence (at least bad rolls showing the intent of violence). Fortunately, Rondel charmed the lesser surviving cleric. Only to see them collapse, the victim of Frederick's backstab. Derp. Mareth took a hard hit, and collapsed, unconscious (0 hp exactly).

More clashes, and the attempted murder of Waegstan, and finally all was quiet. The party dusted themselves off and wondered about how to drag Mareth back to town for recovery. In the meantime, they went through the baddies' pockets. They were disturbed to find that three of the dead had signs of mutation (Black eyes, acidic blood, and a tentacle arm). Not good indeed. 

Just like this, I'm sure.

They also got some decent loot, including a "real" healing potion, which got Mareth back on his feet. No building a travois after all...

There was some discussion on what to do with the tower, as it seemed to have garnered attention from unsavory folks. As a likely part of the rumored "barrier," it would be wise to preserve it until more knowledge was gathered. But the party didn't have immediate means to secure or guard it. They opted to simply leave a warning - destroying the summoning circle and leaving charred mutant bad guy bodies. Mostly because adventurers will try to set fire to anything.

Back to town, and the PCs crafted a letter to Proctor Armin, of the temple of Garond, describing their findings and actions and requesting research. The letter was enclosed with a holy symbol to Medeg, a chaos apocalypse goddess, recovered from one of the clerics. 


Medeg, An Apocalypse Goddess for your Old-School Deity Needs

Symbol: Dragon rampant; Alignment: Chaos

Calling for death and disorder from her realm at the rim of the dark, Medeg carries disdain for the gods of growth and order. She counters their efforts with her corrupt sense of balance, and promises power through destruction to the forces of Chaos that fall under her charms and worship. It was “her” comet that the goddess Khador intercepted, and Medeg takes dark pleasure in the knowledge that she bent Khador's innocence and optimism into a more grim manifestation. Medeg wears garments embroidered with comets, and a cloak of scales. Her helm, crested with a scavenging bird, reaps life for miles around if she makes a physical appearance. Medeg rides the mad, twisted dragon Qaphanth, a primal serpentine horror with ruby scales. She communicates to her followers through her avatar, a dragon of smoke. Ceremonies of her adherents include: Calling the Dragon and The Black Spring.

Illustration: Gorgonzola Flies Off On Her Dragon,
Henry Justice Ford

DM Notes:

More fun and chaos, on both sides of the screen. Six players always bring a lot of energy to the table, and having them on the back foot for a good part of the session was a bit of work. (P.S. some observations from JoetheLawyer on running larger tables). At this point, I know what people are going to try at the table, so prepped by baddies accordingly. I expected this contact to be a challenge, no matter how it played out. 

And more worldbuilding, so I need to keep ahead in this. The party has requested info from a few corners, so I'll craft up some more pieces of the puzzle, as well as keep the pressure on the area... A balancing act for sure.

Also, at this point we are clearly not in a "pick-up" game. I've got enough repeat players with investment into the game that we're calling it what it's becoming - a campaign... Pulling the game off Meetup for now, although I still plan to run one-shots for interested folks.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Necromuseum of Tutmus-Ra-Hotep-Pthah III

Among my piles of files of downloaded maps from various cartographers, I had a map by Dyson, drawn as a bit of an homage to the passages and rooms of Quasqueton.

It has been another project completed in small fits and starts. What came of it is a desert tomb occupied by a vain and somewhat bored mummy, Tutmus-Ra-Hotep-Pthah III (or just Tutmus to his friends...).

This became a tomb adventure complete with various tropes of tomb-raiding and mummy-cursing. Although I did have a bit of fun with it, and ended up providing some options for different approaches to play. The adventure can be played straight tomb-raiding, or players can encounter a bored mummy invisibly stalking them, offering a tour of his abode, charming a couple away to dust the fixtures, or even acting as a sage source of knowledge. And please don't miss the gift shop... 

Download Me Here

Spent a three day weekend at Norwescon science fiction and fantasy writing convention. I had volunteered to run some games, but had no takers, so hung out with writers attending panels and readings. It has been a long time since I've gone to a writing conference or similar event, so was a fresh experience. Not a bad long weekend. 

Ok, better prep a bit for this weekend's brewery game. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Those Charming Ogres... Game recap

Greetings, travelers. Pull up a chair and we'll recount the most recent Brewery Session...

This week had a smaller party of four, due to some no-shows.

  • Frederick, thief
  • Fulvus, halfling
  • Mareth, elf
  • Rondel, another elf
We started out in Neuforde, as is the custom. Our scene began with Proctor Armin, a higher-up in the Church of Garond, arriving in town with a small entourage for the christening of the new temple grounds. He greeted the local clerics, Nicolas and Eustace, recognizing Eustace from seminary days. Eustace gifted the priest with a recovered idol found in a forgotten shrine, and recounted the story of his rescue

Eustace introduced the characters, and Proctor Armin was effusive in his compliments. However, the good priest sensed something was amiss with Mareth, who showed him the cursed ring the elf had found in another crypt. Some sideways negotiation and discussion of tithes went back and forth, and eventually the party was around 500gp lighter in coin and other items. But at least the cursed ring had been negated. 

In light of the party's rescue of the young cleric, converting a former chaos cleric to the temple (via a charm spell, of course), as well as their actions in the area and gifts to the church, Proctor Armin gifted them with a writ of support to document their favored works in the eyes of Garond.

All gathered at the inn for a night of revelry and celebration of the temple groundbreaking. A few of the party members over-indulged, but it was only unfortunate Mareth, who, for the second time, got the opportunity to roll on the carousing mishaps table. He woke up to find himself in bed with one of the visiting clerics. Those lightweight elves....

Anyway, it was time to shake off the hangovers and do some exploring. The party was keen to further investigate the "nodes" shown on an old wall carving, as hints to a magical barrier that had once been in use in the area. 

The party reviewed their sketch of the stylized network of nodes, determining that one may reside southwest of town in the forests. They asked about, and found a local hunter who thought he recalled some tower in the woods, along the remains of an abandoned road. Hiring the hunter as a guide, the party headed into the woods.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Four Visits to a Tim Shorts Map

Tim Shorts posted up this map on the Reddits a while back, and I duly forgot about it with my other projects and distractions. Here we have a 5-6 room space, with pools and a few other features. A place ripe for description...

Original Post

I scribbled up one scenario over a lunch hour, but decided to fill out three more, as I haven't done a "4 Scenarios" writing project for a bit. So without further ado, we have four brief encounters, with four different denizens: humanoid, undead, monstrous, and dragon. 

Four Visits to Six Rooms

And we had a fairly entertaining session at the brewery last night, so putting together my notes for a writeup in the next couple of days. An ode to the OP charm spell of the good old days...

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

What Happened to Brother Eustice, the Scenario

Per my prior recap, the party managed to rescue the wayward acolyte, as well as slay the lurking beast with some stupid good rolls and cheaty use of an envenomed blade. Don't worry, Frederick, there will be more bitey, venomous things in your future, too....


So here is a quick writeup of the scenario itself, useful for a quick drop-in as needed for low-level characters. Based on the session's play, I've revised it a bit to increase the challenge and better round out the cavern space. Also, I noted that the entrance cavern that I had interpreted to be a pool is actually depicted as a ledge area, so the critters have been swapped appropriately. 

Original map here

All of the monsters, excepting the chitin drake, are familiar central casting foes. The chitin drake's stats and abilities are included at the end. 


What Happened to Brother Eustice?

Well, better figure out what I'm going to put them through this week...

Monday, March 27, 2023

Review: Trilemma Adventures Compendium Bestiary

I followed Michael Prescott's blog during the G+ days (Note to self - restore blog onto reader feed). The guy has the one- to two-page adventure down to an art, with compact perspective maps, terse but flavorful descriptions and enough theme variety and weirdness to make them more than a bog-standard crawl (I mean, you have stuff like I write for that...). So when Michael Kickstarted a compendium of 48 of his blog/Patreon adventures, with expanded descriptions and supplemental material, I threw in my support. The product won multiple Ennies in 2020. I realize the book has been waiting quietly on my shelf, and I need to do another read-through to find some seeds and locales to borrow. I highly recommend it as a resource for drop-in locations and one-shots, as it is an overlooked gem and does not get mentioned enough when folks ask for one-shot materials. The compendium is available on DriveThru for those interested in perusing further. 

With the Kickstarter, I apparently received the companion bestiary as a pdf, which compiles all of the custom beasties and foes included in Michael's adventures. I had forgotten about this collection until I was recently procrastinating, err... reorganizing files... Scrolling through the pdf, I realized needed to order a print copy to pore through more closely, since dead-tree reading materials work best for me. 

Book in action. Note post-it bookmarks for future hijinks.

The book was immediately filled with bookmarks and notes made for both set-piece monsters and wandering encounters. Last week, my group made the acquaintance of a Chitin Drake while rescuing a wayward acolyte, defeating the creature after one PC was paralyzed, and a second char-broiled.

The book (B/X version) clocks in at around 150 pages, and contains 112 creatures to encounter. The range of foes is of the usual types, including beast, humanoid, undead, mechanical, and infernal (I think the only major category missing is the ooze/slime). Creature HD ranges from <1 to 20 (If you want to interact with a god-tortoise trundling along with a hive of giant wasps living in its shell).

Emperor Tortoise with tenants

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Rescuing Brother Eustice, or, Flying Fire-breathing Centipedes, Oh My!

Oops - a week, and no brewery game recap? My dozen readers are disappointed... 

Last session, we were joined by:

  • Slick - Thief
  • Mareth - Elf
  • Frederick - Thief
  • Skuli - Cleric
  • Bonk - Fighter
I started out with a bit of world-building, sharing a in-process map of the inland sea and surrounding region where the characters are currently residing. There was a brief overview of the powers in the area, and how they may be encroaching on the frontiers surrounding Neuforde and its environs. Patrols from two competing duchies had been seen in the area, making probing explorations of the locals' attitudes and dispositions. That said, several new settlers and craftspeople had come to town, expanding its labor and skill base. Fixing that bridge had some benefit, after all...

World so far - PCs located about 1/3 way up
the west coast of the inland sea.

The PCs checked in on their friend Victor Matui, who was restoring his family stronghold off the main road. Victor shared a bit about his family's persecution at the hands of a competing religious faction, and his hopes to restore the family name. But strong walls in the meantime...

And, in the most-awaited part of the session, we determined Bonk's real name: Waegstan the Bo'sun. Recognized by a former crewmate, he was called out. (a few random rolls from a prepared table later) Waegstan had most recently served on a cog named the Gallarita hauling cargo around the inland sea. He had disappeared in port, and had been assumed a deserter. Obviously we still have a few gaps as to the incident leading to his amnesia, but we have something to start from.

OK, it was time to go explore.

Monday, March 6, 2023

The Black Labyrinth of Lord Greywulf - the party gets randomized

Okey dokey - Sunday again, folks, and we had a few repeat offenders, and a couple of new folks at the table.

  • Jax, barbarian
  • Fulvus, halfling
  • Rondel, elf
  • Mareth, another elf
and introducing:

  • Skuli Bodvarsson, cleric
  • Slick, thief (of course)
Skuli rocking his randomly-generated hairdo and 15 CHA

The party convened in Neuforde, with a wandering band of performers arriving in town to entertain and fleece the locals. I did this mostly to practice a bit of improv and to wait and see where the evening was going to go... 

Slick won a few gold in a game of chance, Rondel narrowly lost a knife-throwing contest, and Mareth and Skuli had their fortunes read by "Madame Grebe." Mareth also paid some good coin for "protective incense." Jax and Goober thought the whole affair was sketchy and gave the carnies a wide berth.

Slick also partook in a bit of five-finger discount work and garnered a few gold coins and "written directions to the Black Labyrinth of Lord Greywulf" (thank you, Donjon).

Well, I guess that's where we're going tonight...

<Pause for behind-the-curtains moment>

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Random Monster: Carnivorous Grass

Solomon dropped his pack. This little copse of grass would do to rest for the night. Green and soft - better than that rocky camp last night. He kicked aside a desiccated dear corpse mounded in the center of the grass. He wasn't about to share a bed with that. Solomon threw down his bedroll, took a nip from his flask, and shut his eyes...

The sun hit his eyes. Groggy, he realized he'd slept past the dawn. He felt numb, his limbs heavy... He'd only had one nip... Feebly, he tried to sit up, only to find himself bound to the ground. Farkin' pixies! No, that wasn't right. His vision cleared, and he saw in horror that his skin had been pierced and threaded with countless blades of grass! Solomon struggled, feebly, feeling drained, as the sun continued to rise. He vaguely felt the grass pierce more fully into his body and wrap more securely around his limbs... 

Don't Step On the Grass

One of many banes of the unwary in the wilderness, Carnivorous Grass presents a tempting "bed" of thick, soft turf for a weary traveler or animal to rest upon. The grass may give itself away by one or more desiccated corpses within its bounds, although the age of the corpse may not be clear, as the grass' attack and consumption of victims accelerates any apparent decay.

Only after they slumber, will the grass present its true nature, working its way through bedding and clothing to pierce the flesh and bind the victim to the ground as it slowly drains them of lifeblood and strength.

The grass manages this feat by producing an anesthetic effect (save vs poison to detect/be awakened). If awakened, the victim may escape with little difficulty, tearing away the grass blades from their flesh. Extracting oneself will cause 1d4 damage.

Those who do not awaken will take 1d6 damage +1d4 STR drain (One "attack" per night, three "attacks" per day). A trapped individual must make a STR test upon awakening to escape the entwining and piercing grass. They may make an additional attempt after each grass "attack," but repeated failures will lead to decreasing chances of escape as their blood and strength are drained. 

(AC: Umm, it's grass.  HD: No matter what you do to it, it's eventually growing back...)

Beware of the Lawn

And of course there's real "carnivorous" grass (via symbiotic fungus, but who's counting?)

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Random Monster: The Conflagration Spider

Stumbled upon via a friend's feed:

art by Edward Gorey, of course

Anyway, this fellow looks like a fun time. 

And since I enjoy aggravating my poor players with yet another spider variant...  After all, they almost had their asses handed to them by a single pesky crustacean last session. So let's do this...

Conflagration Spider:
Angry, belligerent, and aflame, these arachnids were the unholy development of the vivimancer-alchemist Vladan Bačić. Bačić consorted with certain abyssal powers to create a predator with flammable glands that bathed the beast in arcane fire as it sprinted after its prey or invaded a lair.

The spiders, bred and controlled by the vivimancer, were used to protect his lord's fortifications and to raid the camps of besieging enemies or an opposing army, wreaking destruction and panic. The spiders eventually broke free of their bond-magic, escaping into the mountainous region of the Kawrwel Wastes, a rough land of sparse forests and rocky escarpments, where they lurk and dwell among the ruins and caverns of that ancient borderland to this day. 

Stalkers and sprint-hunters, the spiders lurk among the rock, before bursting into the open, igniting their flames, to descend upon panicked and confused prey. Although born of arachnid stock, Conflagration Spiders have a distinct intolerance for other spiders, stalking them, burning their webs, and consuming any that they capture. 

Attributes: HD4, AC 5/14, Atk: 1d8 bite + 1d8 flame damage (1d3 rounds). Anyone in melee takes 1d6 automatic heat/fire damage. The flame is arcane fire, and not readily extinguished. An individual spider can maintain its fire for 2d3 rounds before needing to regenerate its fire-gland stores. Resistances: Immune to fire, half damage from cold attacks. Curiosities: The glands may be of great value to alchemists and similar researchers hoping to reverse-engineer Vladan Bačić's methods. Great care is required to safely remove a spider's flame-gland, requiring an appropriate attribute or skill roll at difficulty. Failure will result in an explosion (2d6 damage, 10 foot radius, save for half).

seemed apropos

Note: According to the table of contents I found for the book, the cover image depicts "The Black Spider," by Jeremias Gotthelf, a horror story/morality tale of misfortunes befalling a town after a bargain is struck with the Devil (and his avatar, the eponymous spider). I was hoping to find a Project Gutenberg or Librovox version, but it looks like "free" English versions aren't currently available... What translated excerpts I have been able to find have an atmosphere of classic gothic horror and desperation.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Sunday Session - Don't Knock Over the Urns

 What happened this week, folks?

Tonight's party:

  • Jax, barbarian+dog
  • Frederick, thief
  • Fulvus, halfling
And introducing:

  • Brandor, dwarf
  • Nolan, thief
We started in Neuforde, observing some of the new settlers and developments in the area (toll booth at new bridge, a few new homes, militia barracks, survey markers for future walls and a new temple). Things are booming in our little town on the frontier... (Oh, and Frederick just returned with the local halflings after finding some random goods that fell off some wagons. The local Adopt-a-highway program is effective.)

A bit of introduction, and the PCs sought out some rumors about the past history of the land. It seems that there was once some sort of barrier or network that helped keep Chaos at bay generations ago when the land was more settled. With the ensuing loss of the lands, and general instability in other domains, much of the local history has been lost. It is known that the "Ring Road" as the trade road passing through town is known, was formerly part of a border, although the route has been altered somewhat.

As a starting point in their search, the party headed upstream to a lake and cave previously explored and cleared of a polluting alchemist. On the way, they encountered a band of bullywugs, set on defending their territory. Through a bit of pidgin language, the party made clear that they were just passing through, and the leader seemed to recognize Jax. The bullywugs demanded a fee for passing. Frederick offered some pearls, and Fulvus his bag of marbles. The bullywugs were a bit meh regarding the pearls, but quite excited about the marbles. 

shiny marbles!

Reaching the cave, the party now sought to investigate some carvings that had been noticed during the prior exploration. Clearing some moss and debris, they deciphered what appeared to be a schematic representation of the local area, with a number of mystery points. Conveniently, one appeared to be nearby. Oh, and Brandor found a couple of unbroken bottles with mystery fluids in the ruined lab. I'm sure they are perfectly harmless...

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Random Magic Item: Lamp of the Hound

Inspirational image originally found on r/greyhounds (because we have those silly running couch-hounds).


From the item description: "Bronze plastic lamp in the form of the head of a greyhound, holding a hare in its mouth. The hound's eyes are inlaid with discs of silver (one missing)..." 

Really, I can't do better than that...

Lamp of the Hound

Monday, February 6, 2023

Deathstyles of the Lich and Famous

Time to craft up another play report for my eleven readers.

Small band of miscreants this week, as a couple of the usuals took the night off. And without Goober the wardog in attendance, I knew things were going to be touch and go.

Tonight's cast:

  • Fulvus, halfling
  • Mareth, elf 
  • Thayer, another elf

We started our scene with Fulvus and Mareth emerging from the crypt of Olaf the Black, slightly singed from certain magical fallout. I armwaved Frederick and Jax taking their leave, and we met Thayer as he was vision-questing his way around the forest.

Fulvus, acting on a hunch, tried out his new ring (found last session), which turned out to be a ring of jumping. We now have a jackrabbit of a halfling, with both fast boots and a bouncy ring. Mareth tried on his ring, but found no apparent qualities, other than the fact is was now stuck on his finger... Although he did have a fancy new bow.

Fulvus and Thayer got reacquainted over their shared red hats and we got to exploring. The area was home to several barrows, left over from prior generations before the area's depopulation. Always in the search for capital, the party decided to go grave-robbing.

Friday, February 3, 2023

A Curse of Demons - Some Toren Atkinson Inspiration

After F'Norp's misadventure, I explored a bit more of Toren Atkinson's portfolio, and borrowed these fine individuals for a bit of hellish creativity:

Of the five lovely specimens below, all have demonic resistances to normal weapons, requiring silver or magic to cause damage (in addition to whatever other physical resistances they may have). All take half damage from non-magical fire. 

Soth'tath: The Hound-Headed: 
Appearing to wear the oversized skin of a flayed victim, this multi-limbed "Hound of Draglemol" acts as a servitor-porter and tracker that retrieves the damned, both on the Abyssal planes, and without. Its mole-like nose scents out fugitives from the dark places and unpaid pacts. Two or more are typically dispatched to hunt down their prey.
Running on bird-like feet, or scrabbling along walls and ceilings, the demon moves at the same pace on any surface. Upon catching prey, they are often seen portaging them away, grasped on their backs with their posterior claws.

HD: 4+1; Armor: as Chain; atk 4x claw (1d6 ea), if two or more attacks strike, the target is grappled, taking 1d6 automatic dmg/round until freed.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

A Jungle Tower

Back on the creative bent, or at least completing a few really rough drafts languishing long enough that I needed to call a necromancer to help me revive them...

Some time ago, I found a few maps posted by Billy Longino on some social media (defunct blog, shared post? Google lens has failed me.). Anyway, selected a few that had good, workable spaces to my amateur's eye. This tower...

... was a good candidate, and I roughed up a few ideas that sat in a notebook. I had a tough time building a 'story' for the space and its occupant(s), but a pool on the summit of a jungle tower needed some story...

I came up with a damaged or controlled 'spirit' or similar being held in thrall by a Bad Person (tm). I had some helpful inspiration from JB's Comes Chaos, in creating the side-effects of such tampering.

So here is a short scenario, of bringing things back into order. We'll see how this presentation works, since the accessory spells, etc., take up as much page count as the scenario itself, but I wanted to show everything in a single space. 

Anyway - let's go see if we can clean up the local water supply...

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Just a little perspective

Two quick pictures.

Shelfie with most of my game and game-adjacent books:

And the proportion of those that were published under the OGL:

Just in case anyone is curious about the impact of those three little letters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Shorts Adventure - Dwarves in a Bit of a Pickle

Dammit, I've had this map in my file for a year. Let's get it filled and out into the world. I've got to get back to being creative, and besides, folks might want to read something besides how Goober the wardog saved the party in this week's installment of my home game...

Something about Tim's maps inspire me to get a bit more on the creepy side of things. I dunno - probably because I've seen enough of his Komor Forest pieces via Patreon or heard about friends' misadventures in Tim's home setting. But something's not quite right in this space, and we need to find out what it is...

"Dwarves should not dig too deep, nor should they toy with magics and summonings, for they are not adept at such arts. So when heretic priest Ugraen Amberborn attempted to call an old dwarven spirit known as the “Black Eye of the Deep,” there was a flaw in their chant, and they called upon the wrong god... And things got out of hand..."

I'm not saying there are worms, but there might be worms.

just an excuse to repost this

Not much else to ruminate on, so take a look at what the dwarves called up.

1/27/23: Minor edits to adventure: setup advice, treasure adjustment, wandering monster tables

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Crypt of Olaf the Black, but it's JV West's "The Howler"

Whew, that was an interesting session.

Who showed up?

  • Jax & Goober
  • Frederick
  • Fulvus
  • Otto
and introducing:
  • Mareth, an elf of uncertain provenance 

The party remained in Dawold, having a serious hangover breakfast of extraordinarily large omelets, when a longship docked, unloading its cargo, including a sodden, hungover elf. He said he was dropped into the ocean by a giant eagle, but his breath suggested otherwise.

Otto gave Mareth (as he introduced himself) the remainder of his breakfast, and the party recounted their prior adventure with the cult. The party bummed around town for a bit, getting more info on the collapsed, half-built tower.

At this point I laid out the regional map, as it is developing, with settlements, roads, rivers, and prior explored locations.

You are here

"Where do you want to go?"

Chris/Frederick, another avid note-taker, looked at his character sheet. "I'd like to ask around if anyone knows where the Crypt of Olaf the Black might be located." He recovered a map showing the rough location of the crypt in a past random loot draw, and had been holding onto it. 

Ok, you ask the village headman, since he's been here longest. The chap was not sure, but knew that there were numerous barrows in the forests to the west of town in an area conveniently not visited yet by the PCs. Word was that Olaf had been a magician who fell under a curse... 

And I had Howler, by J.V. West, prepped to run.

The party made their way west without much issue. Mareth asked Jax about nearly every plant they encountered, and its potential uses. (FYI, Mareth is the 2nd 6 CHA elf that has joined the roster of players. Our local elves are socially awkward weirdos). 

Anyway, they came upon some standing stones, possible tumulus' and barrows. As they were searching about, an inebriated ogre burst from the brush, yelled, "WOOHOO!" downed a bottle of whisky and hucked it at the party (it went wide). Jax, who took "Ogre" as their foreign language elective at Barbarian University, greeted the drunken fellow. Taken aback, the ogre ("Rorkker") exchanged slurred greetings and claimed that the party was in "his" forest. Otto, meaning to be hospitable, pulled out his own bottle, took a swig, and then tossed the remainder to the ogre. Rorkker downed it and yelled, "LET'S PARTY!" charging the PCs.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Lost Tomes 8 - D6 More Books...

Crap - It's been over three years since I've written a list of random books, my Lost Tomes series.

Let's fix that. A quick little list from a bit of evening freewriting... 


D6 Weird Books You Just Found

  1. Primer of the Flower: An identification guide of the obscure flowers and plants native to the fae forests and their qualities. Binding covered in dried petals, smells faintly of lilac.

  2. The Femmentabula: A soothsayer's guide to smoke augury - the art of fortune telling through the turnings and driftings of the smoke of sacred fires. Bound in oily leather. Book smolders periodically.
  3. Calls the Avaro: Summoning for a extra dimensional guide from outside of time. Its escort gives one the  power to alter fates and corrupt timelines. Book bound in shimmering mica flakes. Small grains of sand constantly sift from between its pages.

  4. The Coffadwriaeth: Allows its reader to recall songs long ago heard and forgotten, and relive the intense memories occasionally contained within such recollections. Dull black cover, absorbs light. Pages make no sound when turned.
  5. Hiravato Verses: Contains poems to neutralize the powers/gaze of the medusa, and charm them into compliance and acquiescence. Cover of dense slate inscribed with the names of gorgons past. Smells of flint.
  6. Breitetsichaus Book: A manual of the ancient art of sandwichanordnungschicht, the sacred halfling art of sandwich esthetics and competitive topping arrangement. Dull brown pressboard covers, likely stained, pages smell of bread and spicy mustard.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Dispatching The Serpent Cult -a play report & review

Back at it again, with a bonus episode of "What are the Adventurers Up To?"

Last night's cast:

  • Bonk - fighter
  • Stumbleduck - halfling
  • Fulvus - another halfling
  • Tylenol - cleric, w/ henchman cleric
  • Frederick - thief
  • Jax/Goober - dynamic duo
  • Otto - a new fighter and former merc in town

They started out in town, with a 'favor' asked of them by the local halfling contingent. Would they be so kind as to deliver a wedding gift to port, so that it could be shipped across the inland sea in time for a cousin's fete?

Seemed simple enough, and favors are a good(?) thing. The gift was contained in a heavy iron lockbox. Oh, and drop it off at the dock in Dawold. Because we don't want to pay port fees. Yeah, that's it...

Halflings apparently take their wedding gifts very seriously.

The party reached Dawold without incident, or giant frog attacks. They did check in on their bandit pals along the coast road, chipped in a bit for the local road improvement fund, and learned that a couple of the bandits' number had been lured away by a sketchy priest, some snake cult or something...

They were greeted at the settlement's entrance by the local priest, who did not seem her usual cheery self. She told of a lost fishing boat, and odd individuals lurking around town, setting the locals on edge. She pointed the party to the Smolcic clan, who ran the local dock and several fishing boats, for more information. 

The party met Andre Smolcic, and handed off the wedding gift for transfer. They asked after the occurrences, and Smolcic confirmed that a fishing boat and its crew had been lost, including a cousin. The boat had been found with claw and chemical burn marks down the coast. That said, Smolcic pulled aside a fishing net to reveal a crate of huge blue eggs. These had been found on the beach, and the fishermen were hoping to sell them to recoup the loss of the boat. And yes, they do make an impressive omelet.

About this time, the party notices three hooded figures accosting a local. Confronting the three, the party asked their business, and were given a line regarding the worship "Uma'Kai" who their leader had released from her slumber. Stumbleduck asked several pointed questions and I had to see how many ways could I say it was a hydra without saying it was a hydra... 


Thursday, January 12, 2023

Damn Redcaps - Chaos on the Frontier.

Sunday game, y'all!

Tonight's cast of characters:

  • Frederick
  • Jax/Goober
  • Bonk

And two newcomers:

  • Joe, playing Thayer the Elf (first time rpg player)
  • Wayne, playing Fulvus the Halfling 

(both rolled "bald" on the Random Headgear chart, for those of you keeping track at home)

Again, because of a late start and smallish party, I set aside my planned adventure and pulled "Damn Redcaps" out of the pile. I figured it would make for some fun exploration and combat, particularly for a first timer.

I described how caravans coming into Neuforde had been harassed, and that the mayor, sensitive to the town's reputation, called on the town "problem-solvers" to go investigate.

The party trekked north on the trade road for two days. The dawn of the second day, Bonk was alerted by Goober that something/someone was approaching the camp. Seeing movement in the trees, Bonk awoke the party, who spotted a couple of gnolls peering at them. Not sure how many more were hiding, the party armed up, and I let Joe/Thayer know that elves could speak the language. He stepped toward the apparent leader, and greeted them in their own tongue. Taken aback, the gnoll responded in kind. A bit of a stand-off ensued as the pair cautiously exchanged greetings. Sensing that more gnolls were in the wings, Thayer successfully cast charm on the leader, who stood down. Some information-gathering later, the gnolls headed off into the woods, the followers somewhat confused by their leader's chumminess with an elf.


Using intelligence gained from the gnolls, the party found the abandoned temple now occupied by the redcaps. After banging on the front door, Frederick finally picked the lock without issue...

Of course, the banging alerted the occupants, who scattered to attempt some ambushes. A few hid in the mess hall, flinging darts at the party as they entered. the party returned fire, killing one while the others escaped. Pursuing them, the party set off a blinding gas bomb. The halfling shook it off, but Bonk was temporarily blinded.

"How long does the blindness last?" "As long as it's funny."

Goober was enrolled as a seeing-eye wardog.

Investigating further, the party was set upon by a jumping spider, who failed spectacularly in ambushing Thayer. Frederick, in turn, was "blown up" by an illusionary explosive.

Entering a large cavern set off a bit of a running battle with the redcaps, who generally failed at dart-throwing, but cast enough illusion magic to hamper the party. 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Intruding Upon a Logen Nein Space

Reddit-denizen Logen Nein began posting his map-drawing experiments last year. His style is good, and the spaces are well-laid out, so I've collected a handful that stood out to me for my own creative endeavors.

Like the recent Tim Shorts map, this is a small space, a five-room dungeon if I stretch it. And it's pre-loaded with a few features (web, skeletons, furniture) to imply occupants and a bit of a story. So I took this on as a one-hour writing exercise.


...eight hours later...

OK, the original occupant of the east cave didn't work out with the spider and got eaten. I re-stocked it with a deep elf, based on the OSE drow. Side note - the dark elf thing never quite worked for me, since so many subterranean or deep-water critters lose their pigmentation.

like these guys

So screw it, my deep elves are pallid and bug-eyed. It's my campaign.

like this guy

Anyway... we have a deep elf spy and their arachnid housemate hangin' in a cave, spying on the comings and goings of ships, and feeding the info to the local pirates. 

What cargoes could the deep elves be seeking to secure? Spices? Brightly-colored fabrics? Black light posters? Who knows, they are a mysterious lot.

Have fun with this little cave and its foes

Be good to one another out there.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Cavern of the Chartreuse Apparition - A Shorts Short

Tim Shorts threw this intimate map up on the Reddits several days ago, and I added it to my file of stolen maps. 

We have a small cave with two areas of note - a well and a finished chamber. Tim said in his post that he'd burned through his green colored pencil to color the space, so I chose to pay homage to the brave pencil in its selfless sacrifice. 

With only a couple of locations of note, this place is likely an abandoned space, but somewhere that Our Heroes(tm) might seek out for some sort of boon or resource. Since the place seems to be pretty much cleared out, I chose a ghost as a resident, and perhaps one with some knowledge. Added a guardian critter and small puzzle. And created a few tables for a GM to either randomize or pick from to create some seed for exploration. Because random tables are good.

Welcome to the:

Cavern of the Chartreuse Apparition

Ok, back to digging out from the snow out here on The Plains, where I'm spending a bit of post-holiday time with family, Happy New Year, and be well.