Wednesday, June 20, 2018

[DCC] The Portal Under the Stars One-Shot

I missed Free RPG Day due to other commitments, but got to run a two-player Dungeon Crawl Classics funnel on Monday night. I ran the party through the classic The Portal Under the Stars adventure.
Spoilers ahead for that adventure...

Mortuorum Cibum
Player: Adam
Ryan the Fortune Teller
Paul the Cheesemaker (“Blessed are the Cheesemakers”)
Seth the Mummer
Zack the Smuggler
Player: Alex
Brian the Linkboy
Richard the Cultist
Harry the Gongfarmer
Thomas the Hunter
We used the Alternate Occupations supplement from IDD.
Modus Mortis
Ryan the Fortuneteller used his Tarot Deck to gain advice on how to proceed once they discovered the locked door in room 1. He rolled a Nat 20, so he got the advice to “Wait,” and so they did and entered the dungeon without incident.
Brian the Linkboy got a gut-shot with a spear in room #2.
Seth the Mummer got blasted by fire in room #3.
Richard the Cultist was crushed by a falling statue in room #3.
Ryan the Fortune Teller and Paul the Cheesemaker burned to death in the conflagration that followed the toppling of the statue in room #3.
Zack the Smuggler was bitten to death in room #4.
Harry and Thomas actually killed the beast in #4 and fled the dungeon with the demon horn and 4 XP each.
Though there was a solid death count, everyone had fun! I need to run DCC more often…

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Advanced Labyrinth Lord Kickstarter!

Goblinoid Games has finally launched the Advanced Labyrinth Lord Kickstarter!
From the Kickstarter:
Advanced Labyrinth Lord
Labyrinth Lord was first published in 2007, and for over 10 years has been one of the premier old-school "retro-clone" games. Its wildly popular supplement, the Advanced Edition Companion, adds all of the "advanced" first edition options for Labyrinth Lord, all while keeping compatibility with the B/X basic fantasy game.
For the first time, Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion will be seamlessly combined into one volume! Fans have been asking for this for several years, and it is my pleasure to make it happen! All of the basic and advanced options, magic items, and monsters will be brought together under one cover for easy reference.
Here are some facts about the combined book:
  • This is not a new game.
  • This is simply a combined book.
  • You will still be able to separate "basic" from "advanced" game options.
  • Much interior art will carry over from the original books, but new interior art will be featured in addition.
  • This combined book does not replace the current separate books. Those books will remain in print.
Cover Options and Realms of Crawling Chaos
There are 4 cover options available to backers. The first two will be available after this Kickstarter campaign is over, but the other two are limited and available in this Kickstarter only! These last two covers hearken back to earlier cover versions of Labyrinth Lord.
In addition, for the first time ever and only available now, Realms of Crawling Chaos is presented in hard cover format as a backer add-on!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

[Labyrinth Lord] Alternate Thieves Skill System

Sifting through some old disks, I found an old alternate Thieves Skill system I worked on some years ago. It combined elements from Labyrinth Lord, 2E AD&D, and Warlock.
The thief chooses eight skills at 1st level from the following list. Each starts at 20%. At 1st level the thief gains 120 points to assign as she wishes, no more than 60 points to any one skill. Plus, an additional number of points equal to the greater of her Dexterity, Intelligence, or Charisma score, which can be divided up or assigned in a single block.
Every level thereafter she gains 40 points, no more than 20 points of which can be placed into a single skill. She can also choose to gain a new thief skill, but it must start at 20 points.
Here are the skills to choose from:
ACROBATICS: Use of this ability includes performing tumbles, flips, handstands, tightrope walking, rope swinging, and so forth. Use to entertain is generally relatively easy unless the stunt is complicated, while use during combat is often difficult and requires penalties even under the best of circumstances.

ARSON: This ability enables the Thief to quickly start fires, assure that fire goes where desired and at the speed desired, burn specific buildings or sections of buildings as appropriate, and so forth, including the detection of an arson job by another arsonist. This skill also enables the Thief to properly and (usually) safely manufacture and handle Greek Fire as well as various fire accelerants.

BLUFF: This broad skill includes all forms of con games (both long and short con), lies, deception, persuasion, diplomacy, haggling, and bargaining.
CLIMB: This skill includes climbing trees, ship masts and nets, slopes, walls, sheer surfaces, overhangs, and the proper use of ropes, grapnels and grappling hooks, pitons, and other such equipment.
DECIPHER: This skill includes the deciphering of ancient and modern scripts, alchemist and magic-user codes, maps and map symbols, and the memorization and recollection of the same. Special: At 90 and above, this skill can be used to read magic-user scrolls and cast the spells thereupon.
DISGUISE: Use of this skill enables the Thief to disguise himself to appear as a generic being of the same or even a different race, or even specific individuals. This skill includes modification of physical appearance, plus mimicry of voice and vocal traits, physical mannerisms, and memorization and application of the “targets” specific personal affairs and knowledge (requires extensive observation for long-term disguise).
ENTERTAIN: This skill provides the Thief with in-depth knowledge of and performing abilities in a single sort of entertainment, as well as broad general knowledge of all sorts of medieval entertainment. Possibilities include: musical instrument (specific type), singing, dancing, sword swallowing, mummery, stage magic, puppetry, animal training, buffoonery, and so forth. Special: At 90, 95, and 99 each, the Thief gains in-depth knowledge of another single sort of entertainment.
ESCAPE: Successful application of this skill allows the Thief to escape from personal body restraints such as cuffs, shackles, ropes, chains, straitjacket, and so forth; picking locks requires the use of the Locksmith ability, and some of the more complicated and diabolical of these devices require multiple rolls of both skills!
EVALUATE: This skill includes the evaluation of common goods, trade goods, and precious treasures, from weaponry and armor to gems and jewelry, works of art, raw materials (especially ivory, furs, hides, and materials of interest to magic-users and alchemists). This is essentially the same skill that a merchant would have to evaluate goods. This skill is especially useful for a Thief with little time on his hands; successful use increases the search rating quality of a location by one grade (from Entrance to Rapid Glance, Rapid Glance to Detailed Look, Detailed Look to Brief Search, and Brief Search to Thorough Examination)
GAMBLING: This skill includes the theoretical knowledge of and practical playing skills in various games of skill and chance; it can be applied to regular game play as well as to cheating, and to the detection of other player’s cheating. With games of skill it can be applied as normal, and cheating can up to double the relative skill level of the player, while with games of chance the application of this kind of skill is essentially only in cheating (slipping in weighted dice, using marked cards undetected, etc.) to weigh the game’s chances in the Thief’s favor.
HIDE IN SHADOWS: This skill includes hiding in shadows, camouflaging one self in difficult backgrounds, and so on. In order to “slip into nearby shadows” from direct visual sight, the Thief must provide some sort of distraction, perhaps using Slight of Hand, Bluff, a smoke bomb, or some similar skill or device. Any attempt to Hide while moving at half or less normal Speed results in half the normal chances; moving faster than half normal Speed results in merely one-quarter the normal skill chance (all rounded down)!
INTIMIDATE: Similar to Bluff, this skill is used to get people to do what you want… by any means necessary. Application of this skill is both physical and mental, and at higher levels includes intimate knowledge of the finer methods and application of torture.
LISTEN: This skill subsumes all listening at doors, hearing and discerning noises down a corridor or pit, and listening in on a conversation across a crowded tavern, as well as reading lips.
LITIGATION TRICKSTER: This skill includes an intimate and thorough knowledge of the laws, of all grades and classes, and the ability to defend oneself using the law or to prosecute (or persecute) another using the same laws. This skill is also very useful in navigating and understanding bureaucracies so common in cities and Lawful realms, though Decipher skill might also be required to cut through arcane terminology. This skill also subsumes some oratory skills, but use of Bluff or Intimidate are required when the laws really are not with your cause.
LOCKSMITH: Successful use of this skill allows the Thief to identify the quality of a lock, pick a lock, repair a lock, manufacture a new lock, make a lock that looks complex but is really simple, make and modify keys, and guess the proper key for a lock from a large ring of keys in a short matter of time. With experience and close study, the Thief can even identify the maker of a specific lock, knowing thereby certain weaknesses and likely combinations between the lock on the chest and any potential traps included therein.
POISONS: This skill allows a would-be assassin to safely handle, identify, and brew poisons and antidotes. The skill is not as thorough nor as in-depth as that of true Assassins, however, and proper handling of poison is never assured; however, whenever the Thief might poison himself through mishandling or the fumbling of a weapon, he can make a Poisons check to negate the effect. Note that secretly insinuating an ingestive poison in a drink requires successful use of both the Poisons skill and the Slight-of-Hand skill! Special: At skill levels of 90, 95, and 99 each, the Thief may choose one poison against which he gains immunity.
PUZZLES: This skill applies to solving mental puzzles, such as riddles, mazes, the proper order of pushing of buttons and pulling of levers, special oddities, and all other non-script and non-cipher puzzle solving.
SAP: This skill allows the Thief to “backstab” a target with a blunt weapon or object (a sap, club, staff, rock, etc.) with the goal of knocking the target unconscious directly rather than causing lethal damage. First, the Thief must make a successful backstab attack with the blunt object. Damage dealt is subdual only; if the target is still conscious after application of subdual damage, the Thief makes a Sap roll; if successful, the target must make a saving throw against Death Ray or Poison, with a penalty equal to the damage dealt or the Sap roll (whichever is higher) and a bonus equal to the AC value of any helm worn (i.e., a Plate-quality helm gives the target a +6 bonus to his saving throw). If the save fails, the target falls unconscious.
SCRUTINIZE: This skill subsumes all sorts of searching, spotting, double-checking, sighting, noticing, and other forms of visual observation and perception. It is used to find traps, spot pits, detect secret and concealed doors, and otherwise visually determine the true status or nature of a physical object or area.
SLIGHT-OF-HAND: This ability includes small acts of prestidigitation, cutting purses, lifting kerchiefs, picking pockets, and manipulation of fine objects with the fingers. This skill is modified by 5% per level difference greater than 5 levels between the Thief and the target; toward the Thief’s favor if he is of higher level, against the Thief if the target is of higher level.
STEALTH: This is the ability to move silently; it is usually used in urban, rural, or dungeon settings. Use in wilderness or cavern settings is at half normal chances, at best. Movement is limited to half normal Speed for best chances; half the skill chance if moving more than half normal Speed up to full Speed, and quarter chances for movement from full Speed to double Speed; it is impossible to use Stealth at faster Speed rates.
TRAIL: This ability enables the Thief to find and follow a target unseen through a generally urban or, at best, rural area. The more deserted the streets and wary the target, the more difficult the use of the skill. Disguise skill can be of great help in trailing a subject, as can Hide and Stealth.
TRAPSMITH: This is the ability to manufacture or disable traps of all sorts. Lack of the proper tools makes this quite difficult, if not impossible, depending on the nature of the trap. This ability also subsumes the ability to find traps at half its normal value, rounded down, if such skill level is greater than the Scrutinize ability of the Thief.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Hexcrawl Wisconsin -- AKA GaryCon!

I will be attending GaryCon this year, finally, again, though only for one day -- Saturday.
I hope to arrive by 9am. My day is essentially open until 6pm, so I mostly plan to hang out in the Exhibitor Hall or catch seminars or short game demos until 6ish.
Then at 6pm I will be running a BX/Labyrinth Lord/House-rule game in the Open Gaming area. It's an open-ended game, no limits to the number of players, so if you are there, jump on in, I will have plenty of pre-generated characters.
Hope to see some of you there!
Image result for garycon X

Friday, February 2, 2018

[WOHA Maps] Hex 01-2723 Dungeons of the Dragon-Lords CONTEST

Wilderlands of High Adventure
Campaign Map 1 Roglaras
Hex 01-2723: Dungeons of the Dragon-Lords
Those of you who look very closely at the arrangements of the ruins that make up the Dungeons of the Dragon-Lords may realize what existing adventure module I am using for the dungeons. I should note that as usual, I am not necessarily using everything in the adventure module, though I am using the maps and select elements, combined with select elements of the original adventure that inspired the published adventure.
That should be enough for someone to figure out the locale being used as the Dungeons of the Dragon-Lords...
The first person to correctly post in the comments the name of the published adventure module being used wins a free 5-mile hex map of your choice. You can choose one of the Wilderlands hexes from any region or even draw up your own for your own game, complete with ideas and/or details of what you want to see in the hex, and I will create a map for it in Hexographer.
Good luck!

Click to embiggen

Monday, January 29, 2018

[Middle-earth] New Dark Lords and Other Enemies

Digging around in some old files, I came across this material I wrote long ago for a Fourth Age Middle-earth D&D campaign. As it seems like everyone was posting about Middle-earth recently, I figured I might as well be late to the party...
The Brambleking of Nan Morëhón
Bregambar, Quickdoom, the Brambleking of Blackheart Vale
Entish Sorcerer 12/Ranger 12
Emblem: A dead tree above which is arrayed three white stars.
Through the vile magic of the Necromancer, the Treegarth of Orthanc was poisoned, and the ents there corrupted into Voronodrim, Dark Ents, with malice in their heart, brambles for vines, and poisoned ichor for sap. They are led by the Brambleking, formerly known as Bregalad, or Quickbeam, once friend and ally of the Good Peoples, now a dire enemy and danger known as Bregambar, or Quickdoom.
The Voronodrim of Nan Morëhón are currently embroiled in a “civil war” with the other ents for control of Fangorn Forest. The ents are still led by Treebeard, who has fallen into a terrible despair over the fate of his brothers. Due to the civil war (which moves, albeit at an entish pace, regardless of the recklessness of the Brambleking) the Brambleking has not been able to pursue his hatred of the other races, save to the extent where he has sent a few Voronodrim and huorns out to other forests to begin the process of corruption there. This includes forests in Eriador and Rhovanion, though not as yet in Gondor, as the Brambleking is wary of directly offending and thus gaining the full attention of King Elessar.
The Treegarth of Orthanc is now known as Nan Morëhón, or Blackheart Vale. The Watchwood is much expanded, to fill the entire vale, and is now known as the Bramblewood. The lake about Orthanc is now a silted, festering swamp, while the tower itself, a creation of man, displeased the Brambleking so much (especially in that it could not be destroyed despite his new power and magical arts) that he grew the entire thing over in vine and thorn and branch, such that it now looks like a colossal dead black tree, with four huge branches grasping at the moon, the whole covered in bloody vines (from which hang the rotting bodies of men and elves). Orcs once again inhabit the tower and the slimy dungeons beneath it, doing the bidding of Quickdoom. His employ of orcs has dragged him into the politics of that vile race, and he plots now for his tribe to overthrow the Moria Orcs and take that realm for his own, the wealth and power thereby gained the better to conquer (and extirpate) the other races of Middle Earth.
For all that he had a hand in the creation of Nan Morëhón, the Brambleking, and his followers, the Necromancer is at best a distant ally and at worst a future rival, and thus the relationship between Quickdoom and Pallando is strained at the best of times.
The Dragon King of Khand
Dhumujian Khan, Dailianj Khan (V. “Great Dragon King”), Tárolókë (Q. “High-King Dragon”), Lukhûzdurub (B.S. “Dragon King”)
Half-Dragon (Variag) Barbarian 18
Emblem: A red dragon rampant.
Dhumujian was born 33 years ago amongst the Variags of Khand, during the chaos and wars that followed the fall of Sauron and the disintegration of the Dark Empire. He was born a normal human, son of one of the many tribal chieftains. His father and most of his tribe was slain when he was but a child, and he fled into the wilderness. There he slowly built his own tribe from outcastes, the disaffected, and orphans like himself, welding them into a new tribe and power. Two years ago his tribe conquered the last remaining Variag tribe that opposed him, and he celebrated by naming himself the King of the World, and proclaimed himself a god. The High Priestess of Khand thereupon prophesied that he would either be destroyed for his presumption or he would, in fact, succeed, and be both god and king. Shortly thereafter a dragon began ravaging the countryside in a terrible rage, and all thought that it was the vengeance of the gods for their leader’s blasphemy. Dhumujian went forth to meet the beast single-handed. Naught was heard from him for three days, but the dragon was not seen again. When he returned, the khan was a changed man. When he slew the dragon its blood spilt over him and changed him in ways terrible and magical.
Unbeknownst to him or any other, the reason the dragon raged so terribly was that it had eaten a ring from its hoard, a ring of power, and the smelting of it in its belly drove it mad. When the khan slew the dragon, its magically-charged blood drenched him and altered him through the magic of the ring. It transformed him and gave him no small measure of the dragon’s power (effectively turning him into a half-red dragon). Today his followers are fanatical to the extreme, believing the transformation to mark the approval of the gods and the eventual conquest of the entire world under the hooves of the Variag peoples.
The Ice Queen of Angmar
Helkanárfëa (Q. “Icy Fire Spirit”), Akûldâgalûr (B.S. “Ice Demon”)
Valaraukar/Noldor Sorcerer 24
Emblem: A white dragon rampant.
Helkanárfëa, the Ice Queen of Angmar, is the daughter of a balrog and a captured Noldor princess of the First Age, born in the pits of Morgoth. Thus, as with Lúthien, daughter of Thingol of Doriath and Melian the Maia, she is a most potent being. She was being trained as a great captain by Morgoth when the Final Doom fell upon Angband and her master, but she survived, and was cast into the waters of the north, where, due to her great might from her valaraukar father, she remained frozen alive, encased in ice for millennia. Even frozen in body she was potent in spirit, and over the ages she slowly corrupted nearby native tribes of elves, men, and orcs to her cause. When Sauron was destroyed the great wave of magic that was released in his destruction shattered her prison, and she was freed.
Since then she has slowly built her forces of Helkari (vile ice elves), Lossoth (evil snowmen), and Akûlmurûk (“ice bears,” the mighty furred orcs of the north). Around 30 FA her first scouts snuck into Angmar and made contact with the local goblin tribes. By 50 FA she had conquered the orcs of Mount Gram, and controlled or otherwise dominated all other local orc tribes and troll bands, save those of Mount Gundabad (who oppose her and, thus far, are too strong to conquer).  By 60 FA her new domicile, Lugrazbûrzum, the “Tower of Frozen Shadows,” was complete, built atop the ruins of the Witch King’s tower at Carn Dûm. Angmar is now a fairy land of ice and snow, where summer is as autumn and spring never reigns. It has become known as the “Fimbul Land,” for orcs and trolls walk the frosted moors by day and ice and frost giants are said to stride the land by night.
The Ice Queen appears not unlike a beautiful Noldorin princess of old, being 6’8” tall, with platinum-blonde hair, beautiful elven facial features, and fine slim hands. Her resemblance to Galadriel is stunning, though not so when one realizes that her mother was none other than Galadriel’s long-lost sister (she is thus great aunt to Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen, and kin to Prince Eldarion of the Reunited Kingdom). However, beneath her voluminous flowing robes of scintillating colors (which glow like the northern lights) her body is foul and demonic, covered in innumerable ice-blue scales strong as dragon plates (think of the appearance of Mystique in the X-Men movies). These scales go all the way up to her neck and to her wrists, and thus does her robe; her feet are clawed and demonic, and so she ever wears slippers of mithril and gold. The only obvious (uncovered and un-disguisable) demonic elements of her appearance are her eyes, which are a solid blue, the glowing blue of glacial ice, and her wings, which appear as those of a balrog, though ice blue in color and dripping with ice. She can “scrunch” her wings to vestigial size, and hide them under her robes when necessary, though the process takes three full rounds. The air about her is ever cold, deep frozen as the north (-20 degrees Fahrenheit); her breath freezes in a cloud of ice as she speaks, the stone floor slicks in ice under her feet, and icicles form on the arms of her throne as she sit upon it. She travels about her realm in a sleigh drawn by polar bears and manned by Lûzolog (snow trolls) and Akûlmurûk.
The Ice Queen possesses one of the lost Palantír, one of the two lost to the sea when the White Ship of Arvedui, the Last King, foundered. It is encased in a large column of blue glacial ice now hidden deep in the bowels of her tower at Mount Gram. It has gained several powers through her tampering with it and through its long centuries encased in the northern ice. The Palantír can only just be made out through the deep blue ice, flames writing continuously within its dark depths. The visions granted by the Palantír now take shape within the column of ice, and can be seen by anyone who sees the column of ice when the visions are evoked by the user. It is also central to her growing power over the climate and weather within Angmar, as she uses it as a focus and amplifier of her power.
The Ice Queen has allies among the Forodrim of Forochel, who are currently whipping the locals into a murderous frenzy against the southerners. She seeks to send the Forodrim on a viking rampage against the Grey Havens at Lindon and the coastal territories, perhaps even against Dol Amroth and other Gondorian territories, or into Eriador up the Baranduin, Gwathlo, and Angren. The Forodrim are Northmen, of the same line (though long sundered from) the Rohirrim, Beornings, and Woodmen. They are tall and grim, silver and grey of beard and blue of eye. They are not related to the Lossoth and despise the peace-loving nomads (though they grudgingly cooperate with those that follow the Ice Queen).
The Necromancer
Morinehtar, Pallando, Pallanír the Soul-Slayer
Maia/Lich Wizard 27
Emblem: A dragon skull with blazing red eyes.
Pallando, the junior Blue Wizard, returned out of the east in 60 FA, conquered East Lorien using a Black Wind, and re-occupied Dol Guldur, claiming the title, The Necromancer, for his own. He now commands an army of Woodmen skeletons, zombies, and ghouls. Clad now in deepest black, he has developed terrible magic whereby he can trap the spirit of an elf and corrupt it to create a banshee or elven ghoul. He has several allied Easterling tribes which have recently begun moving west. With them he has begun raiding the lower vales of the Anduin, the Iron Hills, and Dorwinion, not yet feeling he has the power to challenge King Elessar in his heartlands in Gondor or Eriador.
Pallando is now a lich, of terrible power. For a thousand years he ruled in the furthest east, the lands of Que-Rin and Kydor, as the First Sovereign Emperor. Then he was cast down in a rebellion and mummified alive in SA 2660. Trapped with many spells and runes, he was captive within his tomb for a thousand years...

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

[Ebunorun] A Sword & Soul Alternate-Africa Campaign Setting

So in addition to the campaign I am running in the Wilderlands of High Adventure, I am also going to be starting a campaign set in a Sword & Soul campaign setting.
Sword & Soul is a subgenre of Sword & Sorcery, dedicated to stories/games set in Africa.
Sword & Soul originated in the works of Charles R. Saunders, the author of the Imaro series.
Ebunorun grew out of two factors: first, my great enjoyment of the Imaro stories, and second, a friend of mine who wanted to play some Dungeons & Dragons, and he wondered, as an African American, if there were any African campaign settings that did the region justice (and matched the style of play we wished to play).
After perusing a number of them, I determined that it would be best to go forward with developing my own Sword & Soul Campaign Setting, ergo, the Alternate-Africa setting of Ebunorun.
I must note that the Ki Khanga RPG is very interesting, and was strongly considered; it does not come better in the realms of Sword & Soul than a game designed by the writers who work with Charles Saunders! However, the campaign setting is still much in the works, and the system for the game is unique; with everyone wanting to play D&D, it is something to be considered for the future.
I have already posted some information on the Piazza, in the Homebrew Worlds section, though we have moved from going with Labyrinth Lord to 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, so the crunchy bits will change...
The map is inspired by the Alkebulan "Africa Uncolonized" map, found here.
I should note that the names of the locales were constructed using an English-Yoruba translator; in the history of Ebunorun, the Adeniya (E-Yoruba) Empire was much larger and left a much more lasting effect on these realms, such that the "Common Tongue" of the region is derived from the Adeniya tongue.
The map is below. I am working on a brief player's gazetteer that should follow, soon-ish.
We hope to begin the campaign in February.

Click to embiggen