Saturday, 29 January 2011

Mithril Steel In The Hour of Chaos

As much as I can understand the moral counter-panic about the "no D&D in prison" story, and the stupidity of the reasons actually advanced in the court case...

How can I say this? It just doesn't look good to have convicted felons playing a game where they cooperate on strategies to break into lairs, past locks and security systems, carrying off anything that isn't nailed down and killing anyone who tries to stop them.

The funny side of this irony was well worked out in the Knights of the Dinner table comic book. One of the gamers, Crutch, is an ex-con trying to go straight. In one of his less successful tries at this, he let a shadier friend egg him on, and talked one of his tablemates into unwittingly devising a plan for a real-life burglary,  presenting it as an adventure scenario in another game he was playing in.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Brief Gap and Inventory

Travels over the next few weeks will have me updating this blog less often, if at all. All the same, I have a number of projects very close to finishing, so what should I concentrate my hobby energies on?

* Finishing the color schools spell descriptions and lists for spell levels 1-3.
* Putting the final touches on a generation system for tricks and traps similar to the Dramatic Personae.
* A short adventure! The millhouse adventure to be exact.
* Tools for creating a dungeon map in PowerPoint including a grid overlay, door and stair shapes, etc.
* Some more folk saints.

Eventually I hope to release an all-in-one pdf with the most useful of my rules, charts and ideas - more in the way of an almanac than an outright retro-clone. Oh, and here are some more far-fetched long-term projects:

* A monster book based on outlandish creatures from historical art.
* A medieval war campaign rules system that takes you from a realm's map, to its economy, to the forces it can field, and gives rules for strategic maneuvering and intelligence. When armies clash, you provide the miniatures rules.
* The Cellars of the Castle Ruins level 1 megadungeon I'm currently running my campaign in. I have this nearly ready too, but don't want to put temptation in the way of my players just yet ...
* A quick reference to plants, trees, stones, and other natural terms to help you turn "a stone castle surrounded by trees" into "a castle of rough olivine blocks, surrounded by cypress and willow."

So ... let me know what you would most like to see when I have more time to post!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Distinctive Areas Underground

The Alexandrian recently put into words a preference I've followed in my own adventure design.
The monsters in the dungeon are ephemeral. It's the geography that's going to stick around. Minimalist keys are fine, but use them to make memorable locales. 
When it comes to any adventure area, varied architectural regions and features really make discovery and investigation mean something. The physical environment, along with the things and creatures found in the dungeon, all provide a clue to its former uses and present story. Finding a new area of the level with its own feel and mysteries gives some of the thrill that, in a more standard design, can only be found by going down to a new level.

A while back I presented a table of six questions that could help define an adventuring area's past and present. Now here are some ideas for designing underground areas in ways that give the players an idea of this history.

Height: Are the areas extra-high? (Built for giants; the builder wanted to impress; built so that missiles, refuse, or spectators at a higher level can have a clear shot below...) Are they extra-low? (built for dwarves or kobolds; the builder needed to make economies; built to inconvenience passers-through, so that some nasty trap or ambush will find them crouched or prone)

Width: Are the areas extra-wide? (Built to handle impressive processions and ceremonies, large bodies of troops or workers moving in multiple lanes) Or are they very narrow? (Built to economy; natural passages; intentionally restricting intruders to a dangerous single file.)

Length: Do long passages separate rooms? (Some kind of hierarchy is asserting itself; either a leader or holy place that must be kept separate from another area, or a despised group or thing that must be accessed, but at a long remove. Also, the long passage could be needed to connect two previously dug areas.) Or are rooms jammed together with hardly any intervening passages? (Economy of construction, and perhaps a military or commercial installment where the different rooms need to communicate quickly with each other.)

Design: Are rooms and passages laid out at regular angles? (Indicates the builders valued planning and a sense of order.) Or do they veer and jut at crazy angles from each other? (Indicates haphazard construction: either slowly over time, rapidly without organization, building upon natural features, or intentionally as a way to confuse intruders or honor a Chaotic worldview.) Consistent features in an area's mapping, like rounded corners, oblique or right-angled room layout, complex or simple shapes, single or multiple floor levels: all can make an area of the underground distinctive.

Material: What are the walls, ceiling and floor made of in this area? Are they - from cheapest to most expensive - natural cavern stone? Crudely worked, roughly hewn stone passages? Timber-beamed and packed earth in the shallower levels? Carefully leveled and finished stone? Facing blocks on the walls, and flagstone on the floor, of a more attractive stone than that available naturally? Or is the material and workmanship truly ornate, exotic, or alien? Is there a distinctive style to the construction: ponderous, squarish, gracious, angled, arched, rounded, pillared, curved?

Features: Are there recent tracks, layers of dust or grime, blackened marks from a fire, water marks, standing water, areas worn smooth by centuries of passage? Have rails, pipes, or gutters been laid to convey air, water, and useful goods? Is it wet or dry down here, warm or chilly? Does mold and fungus grow? Are there tools, furnishings, machines, doors - and what themes does their construction follow, and what condition are they in?

Explorers of my Cellars of the Castle Ruins - my home-brewed first level for Castle of the Mad Archmage - have found the standard granite faced and dressed dungeon construction; a hollowed out area filled with floor-to ceiling walled storerooms, made of red brick and half-timber and having a cut-cornered design; another area of yellow brick with strange floor decorations; and a crudely carved area of former wine cellars. And there are still several special areas as yet undiscovered by anyone ...

Argh, Google Docs

OK, so apparently my latest contribution via Google Docs is not showing up. I just want to know if the "Dramatic Personae" link to the right is working now that I opened it to anyone. Ideally I would like the document not to be generally searchable and only reachable from here, but if that option is not working with the Blogger linking then so be it.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Dramatic Personae

A while ago there was some talk in various places about social rules for D&D. I don't use a specific set of social interaction rules beyond reaction and morale rolls for NPCs in various situations, but I did get thinking about what I do when GMing a social interaction, what other people might need to get to that level, and what I need to do to get beyond that level.

Usually, I have some idea of the character in my head. This is often based on a stock fantasy cliche with one or more wrinkles. For example, there's an NPC ranger in my campaign, Burnsteen, who is stoic, no-nonsense, and was introduced to the players more or less as the hand-me-down brooding Aragorn figure in the hooded cloak at the corner table. His role is as liaison to the town (one point of individuality) but pretty much he follows the picture on the can. Oh, except for one thing - he ... wait, my players are reading. Never mind.

Anyway, a GM who isn't as thoroughly basted in all the classic Modern Medieval Fantasy genre reading and ideas might have trouble coming up with these cliches. Even for the rest of us it might be good to have a reminder of what a dead-center personality would look like for a standard barmaid, sailor or dwarf.

Where I sometimes need help, especially when improvising, is veering off center. If you do it intentionally the results can feel forced ("The ranger is, um, an opera singer") and there has to be a balance where not every character intentionally breaks cliche. This is where a random table would come in real handy, giving plausible deniability for your evil decision to make the town gate guard turn out to be an egomaniac tyrant.

So on the right, or through the link, you may download a pdf of my Dramatic Personae. This is a d6-based table of 36 stock fantasy characters - the wizard, the knight, the peasant, the barbarian, etc. - each with five cliched motives or character traits. There's a random method of generating non-player character traits using this table, and some ideas for how sub-types might fit in. You can see this, perhaps, as a supplement for social interaction with the kind of stock characters that Al, of Beyond the Black Gate, gave combat stats for in the Monsterless Manual.

The method leads to some characters being completely as expected, varying only in how nasty or nice they are. But, some results also lead to Distinctive traits. That is, the character gets someone else's cliche. This can lead to a boisterous wizard, a barbarian who fears death, or a floozy with a heart of lead.

All else is explained in the document. Enjoy!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Kobold Wars

Politics, shopping, carousing? Not tonight. Back to the dungeon for another helping of kobold slaying!

I was ready for them. The current kobold-infested level of the megadungeon, a home-made first level that sits on top of the Castle of the Mad Archmage lower levels, is now a huge PowerPoint slide on my laptop. Crude unit squares marked the disposition of the two tribes that were going to war, the Yurog and Am'rash. Topside, the party's contact in the Yurog, the Common-speaking Yonx, informed them that the Am'rash had pulled some levers and sealed off the usual entry ramp. He led them down an unfamiliar ramp to where a small unit of Yurog was waiting, and a few messengers sent off into the dark brought more.

The Yurog were tightly organized and disciplined into units of six; two slingers, two shield-and-club warriors, and two long spear carriers, who moved back and forth into formations with practiced ease. At the sound of far-off shouting and clanging Yonx gave the sign to move forward, south ...

The enemy Am'rash were organized around a crude barricade-like bastion, two and a half feet high and some 10 by 20 feet, guarding the double doors that led further in. Four hobgoblin soldiers had inexplicably joined their ranks. The troops in the bastion were mainly male and female kobold pairs, each teamed up to handle a scavenged halberd. A couple of sling-wielding scouts completed the layout. The leader (red M) was waiting behind the doors.

At the approach of torchlight and clanking metal, the scouts wounded one Yurog slinger and faded back ; the hobgoblins arranged themselves for a side attack and the defenders of the bastion thrust halberds over it. Meanwhile the Am'rash leader, alerted, was opening the doors and preparing his troops.

After a couple of rounds flesh-wounding the hobgoblins, losing a kobold, but seeing Yurog morale hold, the party decided to unleash the bane of all kobolds. A Sleep spell fell right in the middle of the bastion where, unseen, the leader had moved up. Seeing the leader and four of the troops fall senseless, the rest of the Am'rash fled and the Yurog, shouting, surged forward into the bastion.

Hard to climb a neck-high wall for a kobold; but in a practiced maneuver, two shieldbearers crouched, put shields on backs, and the others mounted up and over them. The Yurog, with coordinated sling shooting and second-rank spear jabs, finally dispatched two hobgoblins. The party members surrounded and quickly dealt with the remaining ones. Into the lair, cutting throats as you go! Watch out for those falling rock traps ... there go another two friendlies.

A long diagonal corridor was the scene of the last combat in the evening's short-ish session. Some remnants of troops confronted the onrushing Yurog and surface-siders; four kobolds in a somewhat impractical tortoise formation with iron shields and long spears; the "Best and Worst," a very well equipped 4HP kobold and a very poorly equipped 1HP one; and the ace in the hole, a ravenous, blood-sucking giant weasel!

The enemy kobolds fell as kobolds do, with really bad dice rolling on their part. The weasel ripped into the dwarf's flesh, latching on with a high roll, and would have surely drained blood and imperiled her life on the next round had it not been for a lucky critical hit with a kobold slingstone against the weasel's head, which made it release its grip. Blow after blow landed on the weasel, but landed ineffectively, the beast living a charmed life and killing one kobold, finally succumbing to the law of large numbers.

Just then (again, off-scene dice rolling favored the party, delaying this event for quite a long time), more kobold cries echoed from outside the double doors. But the war will have to wait until another time ...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

"Mono a mono" and other delights

Apropos of nothing at all, here's a long list of usage errors I came across while researching what is probably the most distinctive mistake from amateur fantasy games and writing. Here, the second most distinctive. Some of these solecisms have a certain wit: "old-timer's disease," "trite and true," "soup du jour of the day." Others are all too familiar from people trying to write Olde English or confusing Greek, English and Spanish. And one that is near and dear to my heart.

That's "Olde", not Old, Beowulf.

Speaking of Olde English, here is how to use terms like "thee" and "thou" correctly.

Any other recurrent mistakes in genre writing I missed?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Session-based Experience

Now that I have spilled a ton of pixels on an elaborate and arcane experience point system, it's time to wonder if we shouldn't just throw the whole idea in the trash.

I see turtlenecks in her future.
From quarters too numerous to mention has come the idea that experience in a level-based adventure game should not involve accounting for hundreds or thousands of points based on specific exploits. Instead, it should simply be given for playing, session to session. Five or ten or twenty sessions and you reach the next level. In the true random spirit of the Old School, Clovis's Red Planet game offers a chance for level advancement as a die roll at the end of every session, but the idea is essentially the same.

The advantages of this system are many:
  • Bookkeeping is ridiculously simple
  • Sessions where the action departs from traditional experience-granting activities - investigation, traps and tricks, negotiation - can be rewarded without the tricky job of awarding ad-hoc xp
  • The incentive is just to play, rather than grub every coin and kill every kobold toddler
  • The DM can accurately assess the long-term trajectory of the campaign, and adjust the advancement rate precisely to suit the amount of time available for playing and the needs of the player
My current game, though, is using traditional experience points. Maybe with a different campaign I would experiment with session-based experience, but I see a few advantages in keeping experience more precisely reckoned:

  • The advantage of taking risks and facing powerful foes becomes clear when going after the ogres is worth much more than going after the orcs. While detailed xp is vulnerable to grinding and grubbing, session xp more subtly rewards conservative play.
  • As feedback, too, the varying experience haul from a tough combat where you were nearly wiped out, versus dealing with a few goblins in a cave you missed the first pass through the dungeon, clearly tells players that risk has a reward. 
  • Experience points keep adventurer characters focused on their main goal - to get rich or die trying - especially when experience is strongly tied to treasure.
This last point was the decider for me. I think I'd be more into session-based experience if the campaign had more political intrigue to it. In my current Trossley run, the characters are fortune-seekers, bound by an oath to the valiant and acquisitive St. Hermas. Gold and monster guts is their bread and butter. The experience point system reflects this.

Any other observations about the relative merits of these systems, especially if you have used both, are welcome!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Experience: Carousing, Inc.

It began with  "Orgies, Inc." (we'll never see the days of R-rated Max Fleischer-style cartoons in mainstream gaming material again, I'll wager). Or perhaps it began as Dave Arneson's house rules which involved spending on, um, "pleasure slaves."  Anyway, the concept of carousing away treasure to earn extra experience has gained a foothold in Old School house rules, such as here, here and here.

The original idea was to substitute carousing for xp from treasure, but I also think the two work fine side by side. This way they can spice up the characters' life and gain 2 xp on each coin, or gain 1 xp and spend the coin for goods. This helps keep treasure in line with reasonably "hungry" amounts while letting characters level at a decent rate.

Below is the main table, showing maximum sp (or gp if that is your base currency) that can be spent in a week while doing that activity, receiving experience points on a one for one basis. The size of the settlement matters, and in particular philanthropy depends on the size of your faith's or race's community within the settlement, not the whole place. Time that must be spent during the week in that activity is also shown, and the bigger places give you more risk on the side effects tables, which is where you roll the dice shown. Click to enlarge...

And what would it be without the side effect tables: 
 Comments welcome as usual!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Experience: Treasure and Items

I'm of the belief that magic items should be rare. Fighting equipment with low "pluses" in my campaign is made out of one of the following special but non-magical materials:
what fell sorcery is this

Virtuous steel (+1 to hit, damage, armor): Carbonized iron treated with special craft, as in the historical workshops of Toledo or Damascus. The metal is flexible, and cuts or pierces as well as it resists when forged as plate or chain.

Azagyan (+1 to damage, armor): A dense and lustrous green-tinged metal, mined by goblin-kind and worn both by them and those who take it as trophy.

Silver-steel (+1 to hit, -3 to armor move penalty): This rarity was forged by dwarves for elves at a time of greater friendship between the two races. Chain and plate of this metal preserve freedom of movement, and the light strength of the metal makes for an agile blade or swift point. As well, the silver in the alloy is capable of damaging certain baneful creatures otherwise immune to arms.

Adamantite (+2 to hit, damage, armor): A powerful blackish-purple metal from the deep earth that cleaves all others decisively and seems to thirst for flesh when forged into a weapon.

These metals, of course, can be enchanted - or cursed - with magic, and are often favored for such applications.

With these and various other alchemical substances floating around it's hard to keep the distinction between "magic items" and "valuable treasure items" though the common denominator is my intention to keep both things fairly, meaningfully scarce. Thus the following protocol for converting all sorts of valuables to xp:

* All xp from an adventuring session are divided among those who were alive and conscious at the end of the session, regardless of who killed what or ended up with what.

* Coinage translates to experience when taken to safety, on a 1sp (campaign's base currency) to 1 xp basis.

* Valuable and magic items that are priced in my notes or campaign materials, but not tested or used in a way that would reasonably expose the character to any maleficent effects, do not earn xp.

* When brought to safety and tested or used, the party (those members at the time the object was brought to safety) gets half the xp from the item's value. Experience points should not be a clue; if testing revealed only a lesser power, while a greater one goes unguessed at, adjust the award accordingly.

* When sold on, the remaining half of the xp is distributed among the party at the time of the sale, or full xp if the item was never tested and the party manages to sell it.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Tales of the 11 Foot Pole

The lead-in to last night's Trossley run:
  • The collapsible *11* foot pole ( sections of 3, 4 and 4 feet) the party had commissioned from the ten-foot-pole magnate was finally ready.
  • Every megadungeon has to have rival adventurers, and the first ones arrived in town. A down-on-their luck couple with a dog, a baby, and some scavenged weapons of poor quality, I fully expected pathos and tragedy to ensue. What happened? Read on...
The new wizard, Jessera, showed a tactical bent as she urged the party to "secure the back area" and investigate the other doors leading from the entry room before pressing deeper into the dungeon. Going north found a room with murals of the Archmage's troops marching forward, and exiting the far door caused an odd, nervous feeling in the dwarf that went away as the party decided to turn around and try the south door. This led to an ineffective crossbow trap, a brick-constructed area with rooms formerly dedicated to storing foodstuffs, and a left turn into... an encounter with some kobolds, dressed as the well-guarding kobolds had been in the scraps of the Archmage's livery and armor!

Jessera's sleep spell once more left none to tell the tale, but the party was interrupted in the midst of throat-slitting by a Common-speaking representative of another kobold tribe who had taken over the well after the party had slaughtered its defenders. This "Yurog" tribe claimed to be peaceful and urged the party to strike south against the warlike "Amrash." Both dwarf and militant had their own reasons to just want to kill kobolds, but discretion won the day and the Yurog representative was sent back with news of the party's willingness to truce.

Further exploration, using the pole to open, prod, and keep at bay, netted only a fight with some centipedes and a hoard of coins sewn into a mattress. Some of my rolling behind the scenes revealed to me events that led to a loud marching and intimidating battle cries of "Am-rash!" being heard approaching from the south. Feeling naked without their sleep spell, and also succumbing to player fatigue (it had been a long week), the adventurers retreated to count their money and experience.

And the luckless couple? I'd determined they would try to clean up an area of towers in the upper works the party had not fully explored. They squashed a black widow spider with extremely lucky dice rolls, and it was guarding a decent treasure too ... Thus when the party got back to the Duck and Whistle they saw the lucky couple eating a fine meal, swilling ale, bouncing the baby, and declaring their early retirement from the adventuring game.

Meanwhile, the dungeon shifts ... the kobold wars continue ... intrigue and infamy await!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Experience Rules: Monsters

Killing, defeating, or otherwise overcoming monsters and hostile NPCs:
100 xp/ hit die, plus bonuses detailed below. If the party’s defeat of the foe does not permanently remove it as a threat, half experience is gained now, and the other half cannot be gained until the monster is permanently defeated.

·         Bonuses for minor powers: (such as Armor Class less than or equal to 3, non-combat spells, ranged attack): +50 xp

·         Bonuses for major powers (poison, regeneration, breath weapon, Armor Class less than or equal to 0): +100xp

·         Experience is not gained for killing beings that were not hostile, such as livestock or townsfolk. The DM should also withhold experience from attempts to “farm” experience points by seeking out much weaker opponents outside the context of a planned adventure. Such activities are a waste of time in a face-to-face adventure game, where the fun comes from facing novel challenges.

Comes with a 200 xp Stupid Monster Bounty.

Yes, these rules are generous compared to, say, Labyrinth Lord or AD&D. Do they encourage combat? They don't discourage it. The threat of dying should be enough to spur them to find clever ways around combat, and I already have an anti-farming proviso in there. If your players are not scared enough of dying throw tougher monsters and situations at them.

Let's face it, if you are going old school hardcore and saying "The game is about sneaking around a dungeon and getting treasure and avoiding monsters unless you can help it!" and also saying "XP shouldn't come from magic items because they are their own reward!" and finally saying "I will respect the sacred experience tables as if they were graven in undying brass!" then you are committed to doling out 1250-2500 gp (or silver if that's your base unit), per player, just to make first level.

That's plate mail for me and my henchman and my torchbearer, thank you very much. I don't even know what you're supposed to buy at 4th level: Boats? Real estate? Politicians? Sure, you can take it away from them with taxes, fees, or what-not but then it just feels like a treadmill. I feel like Gygax was at that player-hating point in his campaign when he issued the ridiculous training fees in the DMG, whereby a thief could make 1st level entirely through stealing treasure and still not have enough gold to level up, rather than rework the treasure rules or heaven forfend, the experience tables.

My motto is "Players stay hungry" when it comes to treasure. First level characters should go for even a 300gp stash like it was Fort Knox, not a week's allowance from Dad. Also, the flat rather than exponential growth of monster xp in my system should mean that relatively more of it comes from treasure and items at later levels. But at level 1, a hair's breadth away from death, even defeating a bunch of orcs should be a pile of experience.

As always, let me know if any of this seems far fetched or out of sync with your experience.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Experience and Levels

This is the advancement chart for all character classes in my house-rules, for levels 1-5. It's fairly easy to extrapolate beyond, as well.
Level 1: 0-1499 xp (+1500)
Level 2: 1500-3999 (+2500)
Level 3: 4000-7999 (+4000)
Level 4: 8000-14999 (+7000)
Level 5: 15000-24999 (+10000)

One Chart: This is my personal preference. I like to try for my character classes to be balanced choices from the start, not artificially balanced by factors that come into play weeks or years after you've made your pick. Balance is of course secondary to making sure the party has a good selection of abilities to call on, but I'm not blind to the ways of players who may be checking out where other players are going with their character choices.

The classic example in D&D-like games is the 1250 xp needed for a thief to reach 2nd level versus the 2500 for a magic-user. Even more odd is the mere 1500 xp for the cleric, who enjoys the second best fighting stats and a unique and necessary skill set. The 1500 figure made more sense in OD&D when the cleric was a hybrid fighting / magic class who had to wait until 2nd level for spells. In fact, I get the feeling, reading old rule sets and retroclones, that experience rules - the most important aspect of strategic game pacing - suffer from a lot of received ideas, and not a lot of thought about what actually works. ("Oh my god! They had an all-class experience chart in The Edition That Shall Not Be Televised! We must purge it with fire!")

If a rogue is a weaker choice than a wizard I'd rather make the rogue stronger than make the wizard lag behind in levels. This is what I've tried to do in my house-rules, by making the rogue better at attacking, eventually good at defending (through level-based AC dodge bonuses) and able to score extra damage through sniping as well as backstabbing. I've also restricted the wizard a good deal with the only one of each spell rule.

1500 xp to 2nd Level: In my campaign, which meets weekly at best and until recently had quite short sessions, this was a decent pacing. A good session would net each character 200-300 xp and there were enough brushes with death and dismemberment to really drive home the exquisite joys of old school 1st level. 2000 would not be unreasonable, either, given the large sums I'm granting for monsters.

Progression: Each level takes about 1.6 times as many XP to reach as the previous. Not sure how this will go, naturally, but it seems in keeping with tried and true principles. The implication, in case I ever get around to cooking up random encounter and treasure tables, is that the XP of monsters and wealth of treasures should follow a similar progression.

The purpose of a sharper progression is to reduce grinding and reward taking on risky challenges. For example, if the XP to advance doubles every level (as in Labyrinth Lord, once past the 2nd level), and the XP  from monsters and treasures available also doubles every level, then a 5th level party killing orcs rather than 5th level fare will only net 1/32 of the advancement. But this system kind of breaks down when it comes to treasure. Having 32 times the treasure at level 5 as at level 1 is great but leaves very little room to go upwards in any meaningful way. Still, trying to reduce experience from fighting overly low-level monsters through specific XP reduction rules turns out to be unwieldy in practice, as you get into calculations of average party level and the like. Doing it naturally, through a level table where you need more and more to advance, seems better.

Well, those are the basics. Three categories to follow: XP from monsters; XP from treasure; and XP from ... other activities. Thoughts welcome, as always.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Sewers and Subways

Continuing the urban dungeon. Back in the 90's, I started a novel, The O Line, about some people like these and what they found in the New York subway, delving deep enough.

Naturally, I never finished it. Good to see the dungeoneering going on, though. Now let's just weird it up a notch ...

UNDERCITY from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.


Roll 2d12, take the lowest. Add 1 to each roll for each additional level underground.

On active lines, trains come every 11-20 minutes. After midnight, 20% chance the train is a work train (some flatcars that can be jumped on), 5% chance it's the money train with 5-10 armed guards.

1: 2d8 workers
2: 1d4 transit cops
3: 1d8 homeless
4: 1d6 graffiti writers
5: Rat swarm
6: Bat swarm
7: 1d8 giant rats
8: 2d6 possessed/zombies/cultists
9: 1d8 ghouls
10: 1d4 giant albino sewer alligators
11: Ghost train (subway)/ ghost barge (sewers)
12: Giant slug
13: Purple worm
14: The Unnameable One

Sunday, 2 January 2011

New Life, New Levels

In Utherton the survivors of our band tried to forget the death of their comrade, each in his or her own way. Boniface the holy militant, suffering from a slow-healing cut in his left arm, gave over a large sum of treasure to the maintenance of a goodly hospice of healing, thereby feeling exalted in piety. For her part, Grumpka the dwarf resolved to teach her maimed man-at-arms Balm henceforth the more subtle arts of fighting [1]. 

Postponing lessons for the nonce, his initiation was celebrated through a six-hour bender during which various publicans struggled to satisfy the dwarf’s free spending with mugs and bottles distributed to all patrons. Balm passed out too early to suffer any serious damage. Grumpka woke with a headache, which was quickly dispelled, and racial memories stirred within her; her carousing had earned her the second level.

Presently Joya arrived at the inn to convey a young acolyte of sorcery, classmate and friend of the late Ephemera. Merry and boisterous where Ephemera had been serious of purpose, this Jessera had resolved nonetheless to take up the vacant place in the adventuring band, having already had some experience of that sort in the northern hills and returning with a craving for more. The rumors of dark cults and the formidable Castle ruins only whetted her interest. Taking possession of Ephemera’s spell parchments, crossbow, and dagger of virtuous steel, Jessera set off with her new comrades back to Trossley.

There, the oath to St. Hermas was sworn again with the new associate; or rather, an oath, for the wording on the altar had changed betimes, with words about leaving no party member to die a lonely death that were much remarked and interpreted. Even with arm in a sling, Boniface and the others decided to try the stairs leading down into the depths of the Temple.

The challenges and treasures lurking in that basement were slight indeed. The wire attached to a swinging hammer was spotted through the crack of a door and disarmed; several waves of rats the size of cats, issuing through holes, were dealt with in good order, though not without some tension; a sack of coins was upended and the magically rolling silver pieces chased throughout the brick-lined passages, where their behaviour hinted at a secret door. A scratched graffito elsewhere in the tiny dungeon, after the better part of an hour’s puzzling, yielded the secret of the door’s opening, and the band beheld an offertory chamber, the resting place of coins dedicated to St. Hermas.

And not just coins; for in the heap of meagre treasure Boniface spied his severed ear, which he had thrust through the slot several days back on the advice of a prophetic dream, and now appeared cast in finest silver. It attached itself to the lacking spot and, in premeditated compensation for a miserable initial roll, Boniface was granted an additional hit point. Moreover, the whole adventure had advanced him even more in understanding of sword and cross and he, too, was elevated to second level. A booming voice that had offered stingy advice and sardonic laughter during the exploration now revealed itself. Rather than St. Hermas, it was a wee ventriloquist, Guilfoyle the guardian of the Temple, a former associate of the Most Magnificent Band of Explorers. After inquiring after the mysterious disappearance of the Mad Archmage’s face from the temple’s stained-glass window and several silver coins of his mint – a mystery our adventurers had not yet compassed in their explorations - Guilfoyle bid adieu.

[1] This and several other features of this session make reference to my experience rules, which I'll be sharing over the next several posts.