Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Without a Plan, the Keep Burned, the Party Lives and the Revolution Just Got Serious

Last night our Monday night gaming group's siege of a keep came to a semi conclusion.  +Douglas Cole's optimistic title, The Siege Ends goes into way more detail than I will.  I play an ex-gladiator named Leshar, a lizardman.  There is a connection to +Rob Conley's historical background to his game, but I won't go into that.

I can't tell you how bad I need this shirt.

Leshar found himself in a burning keep and last session he found the wife of the (now dead) sheriff, and other female members of his family.  Leshar, while he posed it as they were hostages, he was making sure they got out of the keep.  If he could parlay that into the knight surrendering, well that wouldn't be horrible.

A cool cinematic moment during play was when Leshar opened up the keep's double doors, flames erupted between Leshar and the knight and his men.  The women around Lashar.  I thought it be a very intimidating scene.  But I failed my intimidation roll, even with advantage.  They attacked.  I said oh, shit.

Leshar was outnumbered and out leveled.  However, he used his riposte to great effect and his high strength shredded through the first couple victims.  But there were too many, including the main knight, son of the (now dead) sheriff.  But then something wonderful happened.  Arrows.  Arrows from three different locations along the keep walls.  Some how our party, which we were all separate managed to take up positions to break their moral as arrows fell from the sky.

Still Leshar and the knight fought.  The knight believed he'd freed his family.  I did stop them even though I could have killed them at any time.  I wanted to get them to safety.  Which I did, but now the knight thought he had a higher morale ground and pressed his attack.


I was wounded and not rolling well.  I tried to grapple on my turn and failed the first two attempts.  I could incapacitate him, stopping his two attacks.  I had 7hp remaining.  On my 3rd attempt I grabbed the boy knight and held tight.  He failed to break free.  I walked him over to the room where the fire raged and tossed him in. 

His scream was cut short as his lungs vaporized in the heat. 

Leshar, bloodied and burned, walked out of the keep as the fire raged around him, raised his sword to the world and felt that old rush from his days in the arena, "Who's next?"

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


I got another Underdog glass.  This makes me happy.  My mother was at an antique show and claimed this one for me.  Most know of my liking of sleestaks, but Underdog is right up there in my pantheon of childhood characters.  I had one glass I got years ago and now I have a second.  I'm thinking a Underdog glass section in the cupboard should be implemented. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Random Map Monday 13

A little hamlet in the middle of here and there.  A small creek runs through that floods on the north side.  A few flood walls were built to redirect the water during the heavy spring rains.  There are a few travelers that visit.  To the north there are two pitch camps located in the forest.  Workers from the camps come to visit Chancey's Pub (the largest building on the map).  And once a month, a tinker named Brisco comes through with his cart and a pony named Cheddar.  He fixes things for a few coppers and sells random items. 

To the east, a low stone wall (4' to 5') surrounds a graveyard.  There are a pair of heavy wooden doors that give access to the graves.  They are old, but work surprisingly well.  There are sixty-two grave markers.  Most are low, foot markers that only have a first name crudely etched into the dark granite.  There are a few dozen other sites where there looked to have been a marker.  The locals stay away from the graveyard.  A small shrine (located across the road to the west) with a broken wooden altar still stands.  There looks to have been some sort of writing or pictures on the wall, but all have worn off.  The locals considered tearing it down, but they fear that they might attract the anger of a sleeping god. 

To the south, is the road of many ways.  Several other roads split off from it, leading to a dozen other hamlets and villages.  It ends at the north gate of Crothia, the only town in the area. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Been a Busy Afternoon

I spent the afternoon going through a batch of my micro-adventures, reformatting some of the so I could print them out in some form of hard copy.  On the table is about half or what needs to get done.  The different formats I have currently are laminated 4" x6" note cards, laminated half-sheets and the one is a full sheet that's laminated.  In a addition to those, I also have the one page fold over (card stock folded in half) and not pictured here is a small zine.

The Whisk was a giant help.  She worked at one table as I worked at the other.  I called my table the creative department and her table production.  I failed to consider that creative had their backs to the production team.  So time your smart assness accordingly.

I'm formatting all the things I made for my Patreon into a book at some time.  Whenever that happens the patrons at the $2.50 and $5 level will receive a coupon to order it at cost.  I have a few details to work out.  Plus, I am going to add some artwork to it.  +Si W and I are big fans of the old Book of Lairs from the way back and he made the suggestion one day and I thought it would be great to have them all in a book form. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Micro-Adventures are Headed Out the Door

Here's a picture of the few laminated micro-adventures, The Hypnotic Horror, that are headed out the door tomorrow.  Three different continents, five different countries and twelve different states.  I have no idea, but its cool to know it'll be to more places then I've ever been. 

I send these out to my $2.50 and $5 patrons.  And occasionally I throw them in as an extra when someone orders a batch of Manors.  They are printed on 4" x 6' notecards, front and back, and then laminate them.  That way you can use a dry erase marker, Sharpies will even work, but you'll need some elbow grease and a little water with them.  I used one in a game a couple of weeks ago and I surprised myself how well they worked.

If your just interested in grabbing the PDF of the adventure, just be-bob over to my Micro-Adventure page on Patreon and download it.  Check it out.  Check out all the adventures, locations and sandbox I've created and if's to your liking, please consider putting a tip in the jar.  No worries either way.  I love writing these adventures.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Coffee Cups Give the Best Names

Porters Pass is my 26th release for my Patreon, Micro-Adventures.  It's available to anyone for download.  This one is a micro-location.  Small places you can drop into your world without disrupt the whole.  Adventurers sometimes go off in an unexpected direction and its good to have one of these at the ready to give the area some depth and to give the GM some adventure ideas to dangle in front of the party.  My original inspiration for this is when I created Execution Corner.

The Porters of Gideon is a group I created for my first publication release, Knowledge Illuminates.  I've only used them sparingly in my own games, but always liked the concept.  Porters Pass the party meets a group of weary Porters whose purpose is in question.

A fun note about the main NPC, Arhald, I saw a post by +Harald Wagener that a coffee shop had slaughter his name, but thought it was perfect for an NPC.  Thank you Harald.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Random Map Monday 12

Here's a map from my latest Patreon offering, The Hypnotic Horror.  I always like suggestions from my patrons and +Si W  wanted to see a micro-adventure featuring a morkoth.  He wanted me to do a series on some of the lesser used creatures.  In case you don't know what a morkoth is...

Yeah, that guy.  I remember it from the original Monster Manual, but I gotta say I cannot remember ever running into one.

Here's what the map looked like after I added the do-dads and title blocks.

The morkoth tunnels are spiral, hypnotic things.  My artistic ability is limited so I just made a central cavern with tunnels protruding out.  I drew a second map to show what it looked like within the tunnels but it didn't makethe cut.

Looks like a weird doughnut.  So it hit the editing floor. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Toy

Went to buy a frame for the gorgeous map I got from +Zach Glazar from his Whisper & Venom boxset.  The frame was going to cost $360...and that was with a 65% coupon!  So I passed.  I'll Home Depot the shit out of a frame before I drop that kind of money.  Think of how much gaming stuff I could buy with that.  A little sticker shocked by the framing, I wandered around AC Moores saw they had Micron pan for sale, but had enough of those for now.  Then I saw this architectural stencil.  I had no choice to buy it.  It was $8 normally, but I had a 55% coupon.  This thing will save me a ton of time when I make villages and towns.  Looking forward to test driving this thing.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mail Call Appreciation

The past six weeks have been just killer, crazy busy.  I that time span I've increased my gaming schedule to play in two regular games a week and some weeks its up to three times a week.  I like the variety of games I'm playing:
  • Monday night is 5e with +Rob Conley at the helm as we traverse his Majestic Wilderlands campaign world changing the political landscape of what will be.  
  • Wednesday night I'm running a True Detective type campaign using Exoterrorists from +Pelgrane Press Ltd.  I've got two investigators, +Chris C. and +Ken H who are four sessions into their investigation.  And Chris has already declared he is never coming to where I live because its too creepy.
  • The third night is irregularly scheduled.  Sometimes its +Erik Tenkar running +Joseph Bloch's Castle of the Mad Archmage.  Or playing board or card games around a real table with Rob and Dwayne.  Dwayne is creating his own game we sampled last time and it is very, very cool.  We just schedule to try version 2.0 next Saturday.
One of the thing I absolutely love is getting gaming stuff in the mail.  It's a borderline addiction.  These past couple of weeks I've gotten some excellent stuff and I've failed to give a proper shoutout to the products and the people behind the cool.

  • First off I ordered a Fallout 3 guide.  I've never been one of video game guide books.  I'd rather play and miss stuff and be surprised at what I find than know everything up front.  BUT, I've ran through Fallout 3 about four times.  Then I saw someone on Google+ post a picture of the book and I instantly wanted one.  I love the look of it.  I just needed to make sure it had the map.  The book is fantastic.  It will be a template for when I run a post apocalyptic game.
  • +Crawljammer Zine issue 6 hit my doorstep last week.  +Tim Callahan is one of the most talented guys in the OSR.  He and +Matt Hildebrand recently released a +Mythoard exclusive, Bizarre Tales.  Crawljammer is not a solo effor, +Sean Ellis penned two offerings, +Cory Gahsman (DM Cojo) and +Gilbert Isla each contributed articles.  And artists +Fred Dailey+Christian Mojallali+Sarah Richardson, +Nick Burchard, +Mike Cole+Wayne Snyder, and +Jim Yoder all contributed to this issue.  Look at that list, that is a staff.  As always Tim produces an excellent product.  This issue is 32 pages so I larger than a normal zine.  But considering how much is in it he needed them all.  Grab a copy of Crawljammer if you haven't.
  •  +Jim Magnusson has a Patreon, The Lost Monster Manual Page Postcards.  The Coot People is the latest offering.  First off you get Jim's art, that would be enough, but he adds an entire entry about the monster on the back of the postcard.  And the cool feature is the random table that is built into the frame around the picture.  I've laminated the ones I get to preserve them.
  • Tropes: Zombie Edition by +Pete Spahn of Small Niche Games.  This game looks to be a blast.  Get a group of friends together, create a group of characters, throw them into a hat, randomly select your character (when he or she dies, select another from the hat) and see how long they can survive long enough in a zone overrun by zombies to find a way out.  I have the PDF, but much prefer the print version of Tropes: Zombie Edition
  • Undercroft #4 from +Daniel Sell.  A zine from across the pond using LofFP system.  Contributors +Barry Blatt, +Marc Gacy, +Luke Gearing and +Anxious P. created another fantastic zine.  Accompanied by the artistic talents of +Matthew Adams, +Jeremy Duncan, +Jim Magnusson (this guy keeps showing up), and +Anxious P..  I just love the creepy and disturbing feel.  Daniel just started a Patreon page and that's how you subscribe to Undercroft.  I think it's a brilliant use of Patreon.  Head on over to the Undercroft page and select which patronage that suits your location.
  • Last and no way least is +Simon Forster's post card map.  Simon is one of the OSR guys I really respect and enjoy his talents.  He's been sending me post card maps even before he started his Patreon Page, Maker of Maps, Writer of Stories Delver of Dungeons.  Consider becoming a patron, he just had a brand new human being and needs diapers!  heh, plus you get excellent maps from a very cool and talented guy.  I just don't want to see any "brown pudding" on the maps!

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Misremembered Version of a Session

The Party
+Chris C. as Jules Bonnet.  He is in charge of the Erie historical society. 
+Ken H  as Ben Monday.  He is a history teacher in the Meadville High School.
+Tim Shorts as the GM.  I just found out it is difficult to Google+ yourself.

Bother men are agents of AEGIS tracking down and stopping the reality shattering plots of the Exoterrorists.

The Mission
AEGIS received a letter from a sensitive in Saegertown PA.  The sensitive reports supernatural activity in a place the locals call The Beckett House.  Last month a 17 year-old male hung himself from a tree in front the house.  Another operative has been living in the area, Norman.  Contact him only if the mission is compromised or reinforcements are needed.

The Goal
Investigate the situation.  Determine if there is a tear in the veil.  If a tear is found discover who and what created it.  Eliminate the who and what.  And if needed, come up with a cover story for the events.

The Fourth Session, The Misremembered Version

GM: Quick recap.  You guys are in the Beckett House in the upstairs bedroom.  As you were searching the room, a doorway you did not see in the darkness slowly begins to open.  Go.

Ben: I backup outside the door, but keep in the line of sight of the door.

GM: Yep.  Easy enough to do.  However, Jules will need to stay in the room to see what's going on.  

Jules: I'll stand by the doorway.  I want to be able to run if I need to.

GM: Gotcha.  You're by the door.  Ben is just outside the door.  Just a reminder, the laundry shoot is on the wall next to the bedroom door where that shadow thing escaped.

Ben: Do I have any holy water?

GM: Of course.  

Ben: I need one of those things that sprinkles holy water.  

GM: You put it into a squirt gun that way you can get some distance.

Jules: I have my gun out.

GM: Okay.  Both of you are positioned, real gun and holy water squirt gun.  So the door opens then stops.  Nothing happens.

Ben: I approach the door.

GM: As you get closer you hear a strange noise, but you can't quite make out what it is.

Ben: I open the door the rest of the way.

GM: Puts on a soundtrack that sounds like thousands people screaming and moaning in pain.

Jules: Sounds like Wal-Mart.

Ben: Do I see anything.

GM: Make a stability roll.

Ben: Oh crap.  Rolls a 1.  Oh oh man.

GM:  When you look past the door you don't see anything.  It's dark, but the noise increases as you stand there.

Jules: I take out my flashlight and move around behind Ben.

GM: When you move your flashlight around the room you see shadows on the wall that shouldn't be there.

Jules: I grab Ben to move him.

GM: Make a stability roll.

Jules.  Oh man.  Rolls a 6.

GM: You move behind Ben and hear the horrible screams coming from within the darkness.  As you grab Ben the darkness reaches out and grabs Ben and starts pulling him into the darkness.

Jules: I pull Ben away from the darkness.

GM: Make a roll.  

Jules: 5

GM: You pull Ben away from the darkness, but in doing so you lost your flashlight and Ben loses his holy water squirt gun.

Jules: I don't care about the flashlight.  I'll buy another one.

GM: You hear banging in the laundry chute and the shadows are becoming more active in the room.

Ben: I run downstairs.

Jules: I follow close behind.

GM: Where the Ouija board caring was in the living room floor was, the blackness (not unlike what is upstairs) is in its place.

Ben & Jules: We run out of the house.

GM: The door handle, its the kind that has the handle with a button you push down on the top, its hot.  You reach out to open the door and you feel the heat.

Ben: Ah oh.

Jules: I take off my jacket and wrap it around my hand and open the door.

GM: The door opens and you get out of the house.  As you run Jules, you nearly run into the hanging body of Matthew Hunt.  You hear a voice from upstairs.  It sounds like Elmer Fudd with a lisp.  

Jules:  Is it real?  The body?

GM: Looks real.

Ben: I'm running to my car.

Jules: I run also, but just far enough away to still see the house and turn around.

GM: The body is done, but in the upstairs window you see the light from your flashlight moving around then it goes out.

Jules: Holy crap.

Ben: I'm staying in my car.

Conclusion of the Opening Scene
There were a lot of elements going on.  The initial encounter with an unknown event that caused both my players to retreat as fast as their feet would allow them.  This is one of the things I love about these kind of games, out muscling your opponent is not a valid option most of the time.  You have to constantly think and problem solve.  Assess and overcome. 

On a side note all the rolls were made using a d6. 

When the Door Finally Opens...My Way of GMing

After a week of waiting, the players, +Chris C. and +Ken H, got to see (or in this case hear) what was beyond the opening door.  But wait, let's back up.

Ending a game on a cliff hanger, something as simple as an opening door, leaves the players with something to think about for a week.  Their own imagination will create a dozen or more wild scenarios you as a GM hadn't thought of.  When I end a game session on a cliffhanger I sometimes know what will be on the other side.  Most times I don't.

The way I process the situation is I consider what occurred during the last couple of sessions and the first two or three ideas that come into my head I toss out right away.  The first thing I think of is always too easy, too obvious.  If I'm not surprised, the players aren't going to be surprised.  When you wait for the door to open for a week, I want it to pay off.  I want it to be worth the wait.

My first thought was to have the shadow creature they encountered in the very first session leap out.  Tossed.  Then I thought they would see one of the main NPCs walk out and say something important.  Tossed.  Both were playing on visual reactions.  But instead, after thinking about it, they players heard a noises.  A creepy symphony of millions of damned souls screaming out in agony.  Bam!  Keeper.

Not only does this surprise me, but it allows me as a GM to engage another sense of the players.  RPGs are often focused on the visual aspects of the game, but it is a lot of fun to engage the sense of hearing.  I'm not a fan of engaging the sense of smell.  No need to go there.

In the end, the opening scene from my Exoterrorist game creeped the hell out of my players.  Mission accomplished. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Improvised Weapon: Grappling Hook

When playing in a game I like to come up with different ways to take down an enemy.  One of my favorite ones is the good old grappling hook.  It's a clunky and unwieldy thing, but in the hands of a high dexterity character it can be quite effective.

Here's how I use it in game.  It is a short missile weapon and because of its awkwardness, the character is at -2 to hit.  Range wise I've never set in stone, but I think I would go with 2 short/4 medium/6 for long.

A grappling hook does 1d4 damage.  If it scores 4 points of damage it gets lodged into the target.  This is where the fun begins.  The GM just has to go with what he think what will work.  Many different things could happen.  Here's a couple of examples.

  • I was in a DCC game, I forget the adventure's name, but right off the get go you have to climb a sheer ice wall and once you get near the top a saber-tooth something mauls you.  My guy was lower on the climbing rope so I didn't get eaten right away.  I had a grappling hook of my own threw it at the saber-tooth something and scored a hit and lodged it into the creature.  Since this is DCC I decided my character might as well have a cool death and one of his own choosing, so he held onto the rope connected to the grappling hook and bore all his weight down hoping that extra weight would pull the saber-tooth something plummeting to its death.  Would have been kinda cool, right?  It didn't happen, but I thought it would have been cool
  • It could be used to climb up the backside of a huge beast.  
  • Used to control the movement of the target.  If the grappling hook is set and the player is strong enough or can secure the rope, you got yourself a leash.  
The uses are varied depending on the situation.  The other thing to worry about is getting ragdolled.  If a character tosses a grappling hook at a stone giant to restrict his movement, that very same character may find himself flying through the air because the giant's strength is so much more.  But if enough character get their hooks into the giant they could bring that big boy down like Gulliver. 

The versatility and the creative ways a grappling hook can be used in game is the kind of thing I enjoy.  The GM will need to make on the fly rulings, but I don't think it's that difficult to do.  Especially for all the OSR GMs, its a cake walk.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Random Map Monday 11

Most of the time I draw a map first and then the idea forms in my head.  This was one of the few times I had the idea first then drew the map.  I rarely can accomplish the latter.  I am better at bending ideas around a map than trying to draw a map that fits an idea I have.  Anyways, this idea, that became Malice House, was formed years ago when I was helping +Rob Conley with one of his Points of Light (excellent product, if you don't have a copy I suggest getting one).  There was an entry about a hag.  I did a post (Editing Gaming Products, Part 2) on it over four years ago.  Holy crap, that's an eternity in blogging time.  When I reread the Monster Manual and found the sentence about tracking down evil men to put them into some larva state then used as a currency...that right there is gold.

I've always wanted to do something that used this premise.  To get the party involved with some sort of transaction.  Malice House became that.  At first I tried to draw the larva (or pods I call them in the adventure) like  some sort of gooey substance was suspending them from the ground.  Drawing failure.  I love drawing my maps, but I am also very aware of my limitations.  Scratch the webbing idea.  So I went for the gooey pool of bile instead.  Much easier to draw and still gross and still creepy. 

Here's what the map looked like after I add my do-dads and silhouettes.  I like how it turned out.  For some reason this one evokes that something is going on.  The gouges in the map are from the notecards I bought.  There is always some sort of 'artifact' when I use and color them in.  I decided to find is charming...that's a line from somewhere I forget, but it is appropriate. 

If you are interested in picking up a copy of Malice House you can go to my Patreon page and download it for free.  I also created NPCs I mention in the adventure.  I think I could make Brother Yosef's temple a micro-adventure on its own.  I might just need to do that.

Malice House NPCs

Sample of the NPC set-up.  Another page provides a short background.

In Malice House I mention Brother Martin and Brother Yosef. I thought I would create a NPC file of them. I've used S&W Complete ruleset to create them.

One PDF has the fancy background and the other is the Matt Jackson special...just b&w and easy on your printer.

I hope you find them useful.