Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Regarding Robert Bledsaw I and Bob's Legacy

Robert Bledsaw I (herein “Bob,” the only one worthy of the name) would not have put up with any of the filth his son and grandson cleave to, and would be ashamed and heartbroken to know what they have become.

In the 10 years of my friendship with Bob we spoke not only of games and gaming, but also of life, death, philosophy, politics… the full spectrum of human life. And I know he had no truck with any of his son and grandson’s beliefs. He was a gentle, kind soul, wishing harm to none and good toward all.

And so, I have chosen not to allow the gross moral and ethical failings of his son and grandson to taint Bob and his legacy.

After all, Judges Guild is not Bob’s Legacy.

Bob’s Legacy lives in every fantasy role-playing game campaign; is reflected in the glint in the eye of every player-character who sought fame and riches in strange cities and fantastic lands.

True, Blackmoor was the First Fantasy Campaign, and Greyhawk the second. But it was the City State of the Invincible Overlord and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy that spawned or most greatly influenced the development of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns at thousands of tables over the last five decades.

Far more campaigns, I’d wager, than even Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms.

And most folks never even know it.

In the early days, Blackmoor and Greyhawk were merely mysterious, legendary names – the Temple of the Frog all but a myth. Far more player characters in those days explored the streets and alleys, palaces and dives of the City State than ever even saw the walls of Greyhawk; far more adventurers earned fame (or infamy) and won riches (or death) in the wilds of the Wilderlands than ever explored the forests and swamps of Blackmoor.

From the judges who ran those games to the players whose characters experienced the City State and the Wilderlands, Bob’s creative “DNA” spread out to become the grandfather of far more campaigns and the ancestor of more adventurers than anyone can ever count.

No two damn fools can ever destroy that Legacy!

The Wilderlands has survived worse; the Invincible Overlord is, after all, invincible for a reason.

And so, while I will not have anything to do with Judges Guild so long as it is owned, operated, or benefits unrepentant Nazi- and Confederate- sympathizing, Holocaust-denying, Anti-Semitic Racist Misogynistic Dominionists, I will not let that stop me from enjoying Bob’s Legacy.

And that includes the City State, the Wilderlands, and everything in between.

Fortunately, my collection of classic Judges Guild materials is one of the few series of lines I own that remains essentially intact; and of course, I have almost 40 years of my own developments to fall back on, when I encounter lacunae in the canon (such as one can say there is “canon” for the City State and the Wilderlands).

Others may not be so fortunate. To you, I say, seek out those who run a City State and/or Wilderlands campaign; join in a campaign exploring Tegel Manor or the Glory Hole Dwarven Mine.

Take a sheet of blank hex paper and build a world; create a new region of the Wilderlands or generate something entirely new!

Judges, let your dreams run riot, build empires of imagination; players, seek out the rich kingdoms of your judge’s world, shining jewels each and every one, and crush them under your sandaled feet!

Take Bob’s Legacy and run with it; expand and build upon it; share your creations and discoveries; but above all, take what you find, and make Bob’s Legacy your own.

Have fun.

That’s what Bob always wanted you to do.

Regarding Judges Guild

Henceforth I shall not be associated with, nor work with, nor in any way support Bob Bledsaw Jr., the Bledsaw family, or the works of Judges Guild.

My former AGP products are, by the terms of the contract I had with Bob Bledsaw Sr., owned by Judges Guild, and it is no longer my right to determine their fate.

I have however requested that they be removed from publication. I have further requested that if that is not possible, that Judges Guild replace all references in the products to "Adventure Games Publishing" with references to "Judges Guild," and all references to my name to references to "Alan Smithee."

I have also requested that in any case I be removed from the royalty streams of these products.

Should these last simple requests not be met, there is little I can do about the situation, as there were no clauses that would require these requests be honored.

Should for some reason Bob Jr. not see fit to remove me from the royalty stream of the products, any royalties earned from those products will be donated evenly to the ADL and the NAACP.

I have removed my old Adventures in Gaming and Adventure Games Publishing blogs, as well as my Hanging Out in the City State blog.

For those who have somehow missed developments (as I did working all day and then gaming tonight), you can find out more at Bat in the Attic and Tenkar's Tavern.

And that is the last I will ever have to say about Judges Guild, barring new ownership.

Monday, February 10, 2020

[Campaigns] 5E Dominaria and ALL Castle Xyntillan

I am currently running two campaigns, D&D 5E and Advanced Labyrinth Lord.

The Dungeons & Dragons 5E campaign is ostensibly set in the Magic world of Dominaria (though its never really made any serious difference and ended up being little more than window dressing).

Started out as a classic “go to the dungeon and back by end of session game” but devolved from there. Was running once a week, now every other week.

Current stock of regular players includes a Human Scout, Shadar-Kai Assassin, Human Paladin of Vengeance, Kobold Wizard, Dwarf Cleric of Arcana, and an Elf Monk; formerly included a Halfling Champion, Warforged Druid, Half-Elf Cleric of Life, and a Human Cleric of War. Average level is around high 3rd to low 4th level, ranging from 2nd to 6th. No one has died yet.

Started out as part of effort to re-conquer Lost Oneah, a realm generally Hindu in style and culture; the greater political game was quickly abandoned for quicker cash rewards, and efforts have included rescuing colonists (went well enough), rescuing a princess (went very poorly), capturing pirates (wildly successful), and now tooling around the ocean hunting more pirates (but instead encountering lost temples filled with Sahuagin and a ruined school  of magic).

So far the game is still usually fun; we shall see how it goes once the party starts to hit those mid-levels, where in my experience the game really begins the break down.

The Advanced Labyrinth Lord campaign has had rotating Labyrinth Lords and even various campaign settings (this is the campaign that was, for a while, set in the Modron area, but now is far off somewhere else, the setting has always been sort of nebulous).

The characters include Elf #1, Dwarf Fighter, Human Monk, Human Cleric of Mitra, Elf #2, and a Half-Orc Fighter. The Elf #1 and the Dwarf each have war-dogs (which are positively lethal and totally worth the XP cost). Levels range from 2nd to 4th.

I’m back in the rotation as LL, and this time up I decided to run Castle Xyntillan (read my review here).

The first session was last Wednesday; we play every other week.


Here’s the general rundown of the session:

Session starts with the characters in Tours-en-Savoy. They are en route to the warmer southern lands to enjoy the loot they gained on their last adventure (a substantial treasure, such that they could retire should they so choose). However, a few of the poorer members of the group heard rumors about Castle Xyntillan and the wealth to be found there and convinced some of the others to join them in searching for the wealth said to be hidden within. [My characters, a Halfling Thief and a Human Cleric of Mitra, remained behind to guard the banked wealth of the group and look out for their interests in the event of disaster].

En route from Tours-en-Savoy to Castle Xyntillan they encountered their first Malevol – Gilbert Malevol the Fox and his pack of bandits. After some negotiation (and realizing they had left too much of their treasure back in the town), they finally got him to accept 10 gp in “tax” per person. He wished them well and invited them to visit again on the way back, “should they survive that stinking ruined pile” they were determined to explore.

This is the group that decided, when exploring the Caves of Chaos, to forgo exploring the first caves and shot right for the last; they remained true to their style in this adventure, as well… and after scouting out the castle and consulting the map they had found (I printed out the player’s map available from the website), they decided to approach the castle from the rear!

They walked along the rocks at the base of the castle along the lake shore, until they came to a point beneath the chapel where there were no more rocks… and only a cavern tunnel that went deep under the castle. The monk swam to the boat tied at the quay, and brought it back, and so everyone rowed to the quay and thence up the stairs to the garden.

There, while investigating the statue of the Lady, they were attacked by three goatrices (goat-headed cockatrices) – the first time this crew had been truly frightened since their encounter with the medusa in the Chapel of Evil Chaos in the Caves of Chaos. However, they handily defeated two of the creatures, and the third fled into the brush, to bleat at them angrily.

They found that the statue could be moved side to reveal a pit with a ladder going down. Down they went, of course, carefully with lots of rope, which was good, because below the pit was bottomless (if covered by a rusting grate).

They attained the room of the pit, then went exploring the tunnels down the single corridor. They found a long corridor filled with doors. The first one they opened revealed a room with a coffin on a bier, gargoyles in the four corners, and bats coating the ceiling.

“Oh, hell no!” they cried, not at all interested in battling what was obviously a vampire; they quickly closed the door and decided to head back up the ladder to investigate the chapel, which had given the cleric of Mitra a “good feeling.”

They remained unmolested in the garden (bleating from the surviving goatrice from the brush notwithstanding), and quickly made their way to and into the chapel, which I described as magically lit in a bright, cheery light. They noted a font of holy water for later use and saw the pure white shroud on the altar (“A trap?” they ask; “I shall pray on it,” said the cleric).

While he prayed on the matter, the others went up the stairs to investigate the second level.

There they found first a room once used as a sleeping chamber for the priest and acolytes (the “otherwise un-described “mass of rats,” which I forwent in favor of a more dangerous study). Finding only 17 cp in an old wardrobe, they tried the other room, which unlike the chapel and the dormitory was not magically lit…

With the lantern light, they saw a desk with chair, some old shelve with moldy books, a lectern with a black book, and a pentagram circle made with silver shavings. Fortunately for them, the potential occupant was not to be found…

In quick order…

Elf #2 found nothing of any value on the table, save perhaps to astrologers or madmen;

The dwarf nearly got eaten by the rot grub in the rotting books on the shelves;

The monk determined the black book was seriously bad juju;

They discovered that there was something still in the pentagram circle when the monk passed his glaive over it.

The monk went down to get the cleric’s silver-shod staff to test out a theory; Elf #2 took the opportunity to grab the black book, of which he had been warned, and threw it in his loot sack.

The monk returned, noticed the book was missing, and briefly confronted the Elf, but decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.

He then passed the silver-shod staff over the pentagram circle area, which resulted in a horrible demonic howl, the appearance of a ghostly figure of a great horned and winged demon in the circle, and the brief dimming of the magical light below.

The party was still stunned and contemplating what it all meant when the cleric appeared from below and shouted, “What in the Nine Hells is going on up here?”

They told him everything, and when he heard of the book, had Elf #2 show it to him.

It was revealed to be a Libram of Heinous Damnation, which upon hearing that, the Elf dropped it on the ground, and the cleric started considering what to do with the terrible artifact of Evil and Chaos.

This is when Elf #1, remembering the efficacy of holy water in previous encounters with Evil and Chaos, decided to splash a whole vial on the book, just to see what happened.

All Hell broke loose, literally.

The book disappeared in an explosion of fire and sulfur, and a hideous glowing crack appeared in the space on the floor where it had been. A large, long, black, scaled, clawed arm reached out and grabbed at Elf #2, who had been the only one to touch the book.

A general melee ensued, as everyone tried to save Elf #2 from being dragged to Hell!

After a few scares, the cleric finally touched the arm with his holy symbol, there was another horrific demonic scream, the arm withdrew, and the crack in space shut with a snap.

The cleric then filled the group in on what the item was, and when he revealed that it could have been worth upwards of 15,000 gp "for the inset gems alone," Elf #2 fell to his feet and let out the loudest scream of all…

And that was where we ended the session.