Thursday, August 28, 2008

Help, Please.

Time for you guys to tell me stuff.

I'd appreciate any and all links you can find discussing writing adventures. It doesn't matter what game or edition it's for, and honestly the less game rules and "crunchy" bits in it the better.

Help me out. :D

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Veteran of the Psychic Wars

The 60 minutes piece on D&D has surfaced on YouTube.

This brings back some hard memories.

From Kellri's post on the matter at Knights and Knaves:

I nearly cried watching that 60 minutes piece - it brought back a lot of really hard feelings I haven't thought about in a long time.
I was born in '68 into a fundamentalist Baptist family and attended a private Christian school from K-12. I've seen actual fucking book burnings that involved my own books. I've been suspended from school for D&D three times, grounded for weeks for D&D, slapped around by parents and teachers for D&D, and undergone one really hostile psych exam. Suffice to say, nearly ALL of those witch-hunt stories were MY stories.

I imagine it's hard for newer gamers to realize the battle that it truly was for some of us to play D&D in the time when it was most popular. Combine the geek hate with the religious hysteria with the belief that the game was truly a cause of mental illness and suicide...

There was a frightening group of people who think I was diseased and evil for liking this game. I was harassed on the street by complete strangers for the heinous crime of carrying around D&D books out in the open.

This has had several effects on my life. I have a complete distrust for the media and authority figures (including teachers, police, and clergy), an absolute disgust for common public opinion, and the unwillingness to accept the "badness" of things commonly avoided by polite society. It led directly to my interest in the occult (long since dropped, mainly because I found that actual occult practices had nothing to do with the game, and because the descriptive trappings I want to use for occult elements from the game come more from fiction and horror movies than any real occult practices... oh yeah, and because it's all BS just as any other religious practice is) and my intensely skeptical and critical and contrarian nature. It directed me into heavy metal (which attacks the hypocrisy of these sorts of things and shares a lot of imagery with role-playing games and it revels in all the things that are supposed to be "bad") and long hair and separation from mainstream culture in general. It warped my idea of what "normal" is (strictly conformist and quick to attack anything outside the accepted lifestyle) and made sure I never wanted to be associated with that suffocating thing.

Really, these people inspired me to become the very thing they were decrying. "
Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one," and all that. I wish I had a save or die attack.

As a probably disturbing side effect, I also have a tendency to not care about children seeing things they are not "supposed" to see. The idea that there are "children's things" and "adult's things" and that there should be clear division of the two is so damaging to society. I got that notion from D&D as well. When I was a kid, I was told kids shouldn't be messing with things that promote violence and magic, and when I became an adult, I was told I shouldn't be wasting my time with such childish things as D&D. So I don't act differently around children than I do adults. I find that I horrify children at about the same rate as I horrify adults, and as an added bonus some people keep their children away from me.

I didn't have it as bad as some. I can only count myself lucky that my family wasn't a part of this, although Mom did make me watch Mazes and Monsters soon after I started playing. But family members of friends... watching people have to lie to their parents and sneak around to play the dread D&D... some saw that as a reason why D&D is bad in itself, but I saw it (and still see it) as a liberating influence. Imagine having to lie to your parents to exercise imagination, deal with difficult vocabulary, and do math drills. Reading, writing, and creativity: Surely it's all the devil's work. Fucking hell.

But this isn't all in the past. The past two years, I went to a religious school. Now, things apparently weren't so bad in Finland as they were in the States with all of this, but my school had a lot of foreigners in its language program...

Please visit The Escapist.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


So, let me get this straight. The tension-killing narrative shortcuts that destroys so many movies has had an adjective coined to describe it... and not only that, but people actively seek this sort of thing in their RPGs as if it's a desirable goal.

First: Good books are not good movies are not good role-playing games.

Second: I think a lot of people just have trouble imaging things on their own, and "cinematic" rules are one way of helping these people define in their head what's happening during the game, instead of doing that themselves, and then getting clarification when what's happening conflicts with what they have themselves come up with.

And think about this: In an average traditional D&D group, unless somebody draws a decent picture of their character, every single person at that table has a different impression of what everyone's character looks like, a different idea of what the NPCs look like, and probably has a different idea of what a hobgoblin look like, how a zombie is attacking, and exactly what action is being taken when a player rolls to hit.

I think this is a good thing. A great thing actually.

But the more "cinematic" the action gets, where every sort of attack action has a different mechanical gimmick attached to it, the more that action is defined, and the less everyone has to imagine what is happening.

Third: "Cinematic" to me is a tag describing all of the narrative shortcuts a movie (and all other media since the BLOCKBUSTER ACTION MOVIE became popular) takes to resolve its story. It saves time for the impatient and it creates a hyperreality when there is no logical way for the "necessary" things to happen. The conclusion decides what the action leading up to it needs to be.

That is absolutely anathema to role-playing. There must be no set conclusion. Once you divorce "story narrative" from your game, then you are free. Nothing is required to happen to get to the end of the story if there is no end and no pre-determined story to get there. The future is determined solely by what the players decide to do with what the situation the referee presents them with. You don't have to fudge dice to make sure the story isn't ruined, you don't have to strong-arm the characters to keep them on track, and you don't have to feed them clues like little children if they get lost in the story.

I get the idea that people assume that there are two, maybe three tiers possible within a role-playing game. Realism (Sword swing! YOU'RE DEAD!), and Cinematic (Whatever is most exciting!)... with the possible "heroic" middle ground. New D&D pretty much spells this out explicitly, doesn't it? That's... limiting. As traditional D&D is a combination of unrelated subsystems thrown together (thus allowing maximum customization - my Rule of Law is not a statement against houseruling!), so is the set reality in a role-playing game a combination of varying degrees of reality, depending on the individual circumstance. In play, nothing is ever always "realistic," and nothing is ever always "cinematic," no matter your rules, tone, or intentions. Stop shoehorning.

"Cinematic" takes away from the YOU ARE THERE - WHAT DO YOU DO? aspect, and therefore needs to be thrown into the bin.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

From the Master

"In all cases, however, the reader should understand that AD&D is designed to be an amusing and diverting pastime, something which can fill a few hours or consume endless days, as the participants desire, but in no case something to be taken too seriously."

- Gary Gygax, DMG p. 9

"You, as the Dungeon Master, are about to embark on a new career, that of universe maker. You will order the universe and direct the activities in each game, becoming one of the elite group of campaign referees referred to as DMs in the vernacular of AD&D. What lies ahead will require the use of all your skill, put a strain on your imagination, bring your creativity to the fore, test your patience, and exhaust your free time. Being a DM is no matter to be taken lightly!"

- Gary Gygax, DMG p. 86

"The format of this book is simple and straightforward."

- Gary Gygax, DMG p. 9

Clearly, insanity and genius are inseparable.

Meet the LotFP: RPG Crew

James Edward Raggi IV
Helsinki, Finland
Writer: The Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra (LotFP: RPG and Goodman Games editions)

Laura Jalo
deviantART Gallery
Helsinki, Finland
Artist: Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill

Aino Purhonen
Helsinki, Finland
Artist and Cover Model: The Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra (LotFP: RPG edition)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Rule of Law

One of the important principles I follow when I run my game is that the rules of the game supersede the authority of the referee the same way that the dice do. Any house rules must be laid out and explained before play begins. If the rules call cause something silly to happen at the table, the result stands unless there is unanimous agreement at the table that it should be changed on the spot - the referee shouldn't get angry and do a take-back when that a player used an actual rule to "win" a little bit, and if the referee had a specific rule in mind when designing an encounter, players shouldn't be able to cry foul. Only afterwards, with reflection, would a house-rule be appropriate.

Apparently this is decidedly un-oldschool of me, where one definition of "oldschool" means that the rules are barely there and the referee just makes a whole bunch of shit up as he goes. The referee has an incredible amount of power in any game, but I think the players need to have a fair bit of power as well. That the common rules of the game apply to everyone at the table is the equalizer.

This is not to say that the referee can't come up with situations where certain rules are twisted and bent, but I make damn sure to detail that kind of thing ahead of time - even to the point of detailing areas where that is the case when everything else has but the scantest of notes - because I think it's horrible for a referee to do such things on the fly. It's weird. I'm making it up either way, but it feels more fair and official if it's written down before play. Then it's the setting, the situation... not just me deciding to screw with the players on a moment's whim.

... and in sort-of-related news, I reformatted Basic Fantasy RPG's second edition as a digest-sized book and had a few copies done up for my group. I included the new monsters and spells from the Dungeoneer's Almanac, and I also included the Eldritch Weirdness spells, through level seven, anyway.

Eldritch Weirdness is an interesting little read, by the way. Obviously I liked the spells to add them into my campaign, but I won't be able to give you a real review quite yet - my group is still all first level (save the second level magic-user) after four sessions. And in the back of my version of the book is a section that closely resembles the Dominion and War Machine rules from the D&D Companion set. I think a game just feels bigger when the rules for things like that are right there. The overwhelming amount of fantasy stories out there dealing with armies and battles of nations and such, and that gets ignored in games? I cry foul.

And from my personal life, work on the two big adventure projects, Insect Shrine and the Stone Hold Asylum modules, has stalled because I haven't had a real place to live since May (or October, depending on your definition). When you're sleeping on a couple's floor and it's just a one room place to begin with... getting real work done is quite difficult. Especially when you're dealing with trying to find a job and/or classes.

The good news is, I'm in a bit of a better place as of today - although not an actual permanent place as of yet. I've also started Finnish classes again, which is great. But all this haphazard living (have to say one thing... I came to Finland for the kind of life that very few people get to live... and while how it happened is a lot different than I expected... I'm certainly meeting that goal...) has resulted in a few other things happening. In addition to the weekly game I'm running and the adventures I come up with for that (of course I cheat... last week I started James Malizewski's Ruined Monastery (from Fight On #1... and oh boy was there a groan when Saint Gaxyg's name was said), although of course I've detailed my own crypts...), I've been sketching little notes here and there.

Little adventures. Little magic items. Little spells. If I can get my notes and doodles together, there might be a little anthology I can put out to represent the Summer of My Discombobulation. I've been dreaming of Duvan'Ku, you see... my Dead City campaign showcase. I'm having trouble mapping it though, since the city looks like that pattern of lines when you close your eyes really really tight and then press on them with your hands. I used to do that all the time as a kid. There would be that cloud of colors that dissipated, and I always imagined I was falling from the sky, through the clouds, and that those lines that appeared when the clouds vanished were some sort of city.

But the city's not ready. Not now. Maybe not ever. It would kill the very idea of Duvan'Ku to actually put it out there. Kind of like the legend of Castle Greyhawk... I think it's a terrible idea to finally codify it.

But an anthology of related adventures, magic items, and spells? I think I can make Duvan'Ku a terrifying legend just by presenting this peripheral stuff. If they're that terrible... what must the actual place be like? Inspiration from Robert W. Chambers here... Talk about a bunch of things that will make your players cry "Unfair!" But it is fair. It's all from the book. ;)

And it's all written piecemeal, so it's not a "project" that has to all work as a unified whole. Those people that pre-ordered Insect Shrine are going to get the most total value from the most delayed product when all is said and done, aren't they? Un/Lucky bastards.

Also have some notes for a magic item generator but that's going to be ten times the work of the Creature Generator... maybe later.

Yes, I'm rambling.

No, I don't care.

So blah.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Handling Large Groups of Players

Yeah, it's another thing. Deal. :P

So the question was raised, "How do I deal with a large group?" Large in this case being defined as 9-12 players in addition to the referee.

Many said don't. It seems that for many people, more than four people is quite the large group.

I gave advice. I'd like your comments on how good this advice is, since I pretty much wrote it all at once without so much contemplation:

*** *** ***

I don't even consider myself as having a "real" group together if I don't have at least 5 players (not including me in that number). For awhile about a year and a half ago I was running 9 players every week, ran 9 players for a session all night at Ropecon last weekend, and I have experience running sessions for 12 people.

My advice:

Practical considerations: Is there enough table space for everyone? Are five people going to have to get up if the one person in the corner has to take a piss? Enough chairs? Do you have that many water glasses for people without resorting to using the wine glasses? Make a rule that cell phones have to be turned on silent, and if someone needs to make or take a call, they leave the room. Running a game and being heard clearly across a large table while people are having unrelated conversations at the table is impossible.

Players are responsible for their own face time. Wallflowers and followers and shy people will sort themselves out. They'll either not mind sitting back and letting others take the spotlight, in which case there's no problem, or they'll stop showing up, in which case your group shrinks to a smaller amount of more active players, or they realize they need to make their own space and they step up and take it.

The referee's job with a group this big is not making sure that every player gets a time in the spotlight, but putting checks on those that are hogging the spotlight. If just a few players are doing everything, it's important to say "OK. And while that's happening, does anyone else do anything?" If someone is just sitting there all day doing nothing, point them out. "OK, while he's doing that, what do YOU do?" Nine times out of ten, they got nothing, which is why they're sitting there quiet in the first place.

Don't be afraid for the party to split. With a good number of people, there shouldn't be serious power deficiencies between any one group. The key here is to not let any one group hog too much time which everyone else sits around.

Low-crunch system! I run Basic and AD&D 1E when I have groups this large, and ran Marvel Superheroes in the past with large groups. I think I'd go mental dealing with HERO or GURPS or Palladium with its dodge rolls and things for every attack every combat round. Anything with battlemats... arrghh!

Important encounters should be with a multitude of foes. If it's just one big bad (and this is the mistake I have usually made, trying to keep things organized by having just one powerful enemy for the large groups to fight), then there are going to be stars in the group that shine and the guys that don't shine will feel useless, which is really worse during the action than it is during planning and setup and social stuff. Having a horde of foes (in hopefully an interesting location) allows tactics and opportunities for everyone to do something, especially if the referee has planned out a strategy the bad guys will use to isolate and pin down characters who think of nothing more creative than "I roll to hit." If the foes are all meaningful and dangerous, even better, since nobody wants to sit around mopping up goblins (who themselves are meaningful foes for low-level characters) while others are taking care of the "real" threat. As the referee, you can make a force of enemies that will fight as a cohesive unit. Make sure it's to the players' detriment if they fight as ten individuals instead of an organized unit.

If players miss their initiative cue, or if they hem and haw and aren't sure what they do, or if they're texting on a phone or playing Minesweeper on their laptop when it's their turn to act or decide something, THEY LOSE THEIR TURN that round, no argument, no exceptions. Pay attention, bucko and don't hold everyone else up. With 10 people, you have plenty of time between your actions to figure out what it is you want to do. If you want to play, pay attention.

Let the dice fall where they may. While that's my normal philosophy, seriously, with nearly a dozen players there, they should be able to watch each others' backs and someone should have ideas to keep them out of instant-death situations. And it shouldn't shake up your adventure to lose a character or three - you shouldn't be making plots that centers around one or two characters if there are 10 that are participating. Those that lost players can be making new characters while you're still running the adventure for a full group - no holdups.

Give enough rewards to be really useful and rich if there were half the number of characters present. Sit back and watch them role-play the division of the loot. Interparty dissension isn't necessarily a bad thing. "Ten robots walking as if of one mind" gets boring real quick. With a large party, bad guys will offer rewards for characters to betray the party, charms and such work wonders as well.

Choices, choices, choices. Make sure there's always more than one thing to be done, and more than one way to do what needs to be done, and more than one way to get where they need to go. One choice must not be the obvious correct choice, and bonus points if all the choices really seem to suck. Make sure those choices make a difference... no bogus "no matter which path the party takes, they will meet the Old Man..." or else all you're doing is jerking the players around. You only need to prepare half the adventure if there are twice as many people - they'll kill enough time "discussing" amongst themselves what the next course of action will be, especially when the choices come frequently.

And then penalize them for excessive arguing. Rule that out-of-character discussions about in-game decisions are happening in-game between the characters. Make sure NPCs react appropriately if the party is almost at each others' throats (or if they are talking all over each other and being obnoxious and ill-behaved in a formal situation). D&D wandering monsters checks (for both time spent and bonus checks for noise as ten people debating what to do isn't quiet...) are awesome for this too. Making time-dependent set pieces or overall plots can be effective as well.

Basically, in the end it's not the referee's job to maintain order and keep the scenario on track. It's the players' job to keep themselves focused. I assume you're not playing with a horde of children (and God help you if you are...). Prepare your scenario as usual, but for the expected number of people. Anticipate chaos amongst the party and make specific notes about how foes and situations will encourage it, cause it, and take advantage of it. The players, with a boatload of characters at hand, will have the variety of skills and enough muscle to do what they need to do, so allow failure to be a real option. The look on players' faces when they realize they didn't win, not because of the outside threat, but because they couldn't get their own shit together, is often priceless.

But if your group is tight and on the ball (which won't happen in a one-shot, but could after just a few weeks time if it's clear that disorganization endangers the characters and the mission), it really shouldn't be any harder than running for a group of three or four, and scenario preparation is a lot easier for a larger group since you don't have to worry about throwing too much at them, and a lot of ideas need only be described in general form since somebody at the table will start filling the blanks in for you.

An awesome quote.

"Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax originally developed OD&D for adult wargamers. Those of us under 18 were there because invited, and because we could 'play like adults'."

Brain... broken... must... recalibrate...

Modern day RPG sensibilities... I don't get it.

Someone on came up with a wacky "Should We Pay the GM?" thread, with the idea that the GM does a lot of work to make a game happen... so should he be compensated?

(As a GM I say... PAY ME!)

(or... not.)

Anyway. What's interesting is the mentality revealed in a couple of the responses.

Do I get a refund if you kill my character?

If I kill a character do I owe that player a refund?

The message there, I guess, is that the GM has completely fucked up to the point of incompetence if a character dies.

This on the heels of the complete flame-out that my Players like it when their characters get SCREWED! post caused there. 180 responses on how I'm an asshole because I think that players can enjoy when their character dies.

To sum up my feelings on the matter:

When PCs have plot immunity, the game sucks.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Look what I found.

Hmmm. Interesting what Google Alerts will let you know about. And I'd just sent my revised manuscript this past Monday!

I guess if you want the original printing (only 4,50€ (about $7), Paypal does the currency conversion for you), including shipping and a pdf copy, you'd better act quick, because if distributors are getting solicitations from Goodman Games, I think I'm going to get the word to stop selling my version awfully soon.

My version: Digest-sized, raw and uncensored, homemade, available only from me, right now, not for much longer.

Goodman Games version: Full-sized, professionally printed and edited, profanity and nudity (presumably, I haven't seen the new artwork but somehow I doubt the art will be as devil-may-care as my printing) and edition-wars free (rewritten introduction), available from everywhere that Goodman Games products are sold.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Post-Ropecon! Gaming theory on Killing PCs!

OK. ay ay ay. Learned a lot of things.

A- The staff is really friendly. I really need to publicly thank Janne Lahdenperä for holding my hand through the early hours of the con... being a foreigner that couldn't read the website enough to know what the hell to do after I was accepted for running games (and I waited until the last day to register for that as it is), and not knowing even where to go or what to do when I arrived... he was very patient and helpful.

B- Don't schedule games on Sunday. Go all night Friday (which I did), all night Saturday (which I didn't), but people aren't going to do Jack Shit on Sunday. Neither planned adventure had players. Two people ended up playing a pick-up AD&D game with me, both characters died, so that brings the total body count to 17 PCs I killed over the weekend.

C- Don't sleep on the convention floor. Schedule to start Friday and Saturday afternoon, go home at sunrise, sleep, come back in time for the next afternoon. Sleep is important. Otherwise you're in the third row falling asleep during Chris Pramas' presentation on world-building in RPGs and even when I got focused I wasn't able to grill him on a few things like I wanted. I bet he gets a kick out of the Creature Generator's intro. But I'm 33 now... going two days without proper food and sleep isn't something I should do anymore. One day is enough. :D This year I ran 15.5 hours of games at the con. Next year, I am going to aim for 24. And I'll see if I can arrange everything early enough to get in the official program.

D- Do play more games. I never get to fucking PLAY anything. In Helsinki, it's the worst. I mean, I can set up my game and it's fair to say, "Game's in English." I really wouldn't feel right trying to join another game (at a con or someone's home game) and making all of them change how they speak for me. My Sunday 10am-2pm game was a total bust, no sign-ups, so I got to play a two hour demo of A Dirty World run by Greg Stolze. I'm not so interested in film noir (which is the focus of the game... example... I'm falsely accused of murder... I find out the murdered man has a kept mistress and we visit her apartment... when we get there, there's someone inside clomping around; it's obviously not her. Do we bust in and demand to know what's going on, or do I figure that just maybe this is unconnected to our plot (a red herring!) and that maybe it's someone that has no connection to us at all, so maybe we should knock because an accused killer doesn't need any more problems than he's got? Guess what I did?), but I enjoyed the game (Stolze certainly had a cracking little scenario for his demo), but I was mainly interested in checking out how the One Roll Engine worked. I liked it. I really liked it. If it's like that for all the ORE games (is it? Someone tell me), I really want to play Reign.

But I would never *run* it. See, this whole traditional D&D thing... that's mainly a "MY GAME" thing. When it comes to *playing* I'm wide open. No late-edition D&D, no White Wolf. Otherwise... I really, really like the idea of playing a lot of these "story games" and things like that, I'd love to play Sorcerer, and I'm aching to play Dogs in the Vineyard (I've run it a couple times), but the GM would have to be on his toes because I'm a bastard as a player. :D But I want to play mystery/investigation stuff, I want I want I want I want... :P But it's even hard for me to play actual real D&D (TSR stuff) because I'll start attempting to turn their game into my game and I'll be really angry if it's a completely bad mix. Kind of like how a bad country song doesn't bother me, but a bad heavy metal song infuriates me. I'm too close to it.

E- It's really depressing that I have real trouble connecting to people I have anything in common with. Nobody I know, or date, can listen to me talk about my hobbies. Or if I force them, they have nothing to contribute. (and contribution is really what I'm after...) Here I was in a convention with thousands of gamers of various stripes, and I had no idea how to talk to any of them if I didn't already know them or if they weren't coming to play my game. I mean, I have my group here, but I don't socialize with those guys. I've tried socializing with one of them, but... resistance from that side. :P Life lesson: If I have something to say to someone outside of bed, chances are I'm not going to get very far into their life. And if I'm hanging around someone quite a bit, chances are I don't have much to say to them that they want to hear, and vice versa.

OK, sorry, no more personal bullshit in this blog. :D

F- Players like to get fucked over in a game. Really. I killed 17 PCs this weekend. Five survived.

While playing Tomb of Horrors overnight Friday to Saturday, I noticed that while they were frustrated and pulling their hair out, they also cheered and laughed and smiled as their characters got blasted and fried and disintegrated and sex-changed and everything. Even after 3am, when a character died, the player stuck around to watch the rest of the game. There are a couple of conditions to this "player likes to get fucked over" thing though.

You have to be impartial about it. When the characters died in all these games, I don't believe any of them thought "The GM was out to get me!" They knew I was running the scenarios as written. I wasn't out to get them, they were in a dangerous spot and dangerous things happen to people who go there.

They have to know that they didn't have to die. This, I think, is key. Instant death no escape... not good. "I made a bad decision and my character croaked," fair play. One thing I do after TPKs or "Screw this, we're leaving!" situations, if the group won't return to the location, is give away all the secrets. "You missed this, this, and this." Explain how they could have survived a trap, or whatever. It lets them know that success was possible, they just didn't do it right. Which helps enthusiasm and morale more than if they just think they got hosed by an impossible adventure. Tomb of Horrors is a mighty deadly place, but it's not unbeatable. You just have to make a lot of good decisions to get through. Or maybe use more augury (they bypassed the false entrances this way!) and other divination spells a lot.

Here's how the deaths happened this weekend:

Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan... while examining the liquid light well, the voice from above calls out... "Accept the gift of Liquid Light! Climb down the well!" He did. Can't blame the GM for that one.

Hidden Shrine... Xilonen. Two characters made a run for it... didn't work. These guys engaged a lot of situations they could have avoided, and they didn't check all possible paths before deciding to dash through danger. Not my fault. :D

Tomb of Horrors... in the Chapel of Evil... they were stuck and not sure what to do. The paladin detected good instead of evil, so maybe making an offering was what was needed to open up a passage? One guy sacrificed a chicken (four guys that never played D&D before were there... and I gave them the PHB equipment lists to outfit their character with... heh) at the altar. When the blood hit... ZZAAAPPP lightning bolt! And when the altar was glowing fiery red, somebody had the idea to pour holy water on it... BOOOOOM!!! Totally not my fault.

Tomb of Horrors... Three died past the Locked Oaken Door. Into the lava! "I run forward!" OK, this is a mean trap, but still... if the floor is beginning to tilt, you go back to stable ground, right? Right? Not my fault.

They could not find that (didn't even look for) the secret door in that third pit. It's a marvelous setup. Make the players so frickin sick of the pits that by the time they hit the third one, they know it's there and it's a quick "We do the same thing," that they did to bypass the first two. They don't even think about the pit. haha! So they were STUCK. No clue what to do. So two of them decide that The Face of the Great Green Devil in the first room must go somewhere. Yeah. To oblivion. Two more. Not my fault.

White Plume Mountain: If you grab Wave, the crab is going to attack you and only you, right? Guarding that thing is the only purpose it serves, right? Not my fault.

White Plume Mountain: That copper-plated heat corridor is BRUTAL. Especially when the clerics bought the silver holy symbols so they're in the pile with the rest of the hot stuff being pulled across. When those ghouls attack the group of unarmored people... heeheehee. Nobody died in this encounter, but three were paralyzed. A wizard with his spells just about depleted, and a cleric keeping the ghouls turned and in their little side-room. Then the 1 in 12 chance for wandering monsters pays off as they wait for the paralyzation to wear off. I was rolling wandering monsters checks out in the open, so no foul there. It was an invisible stalker. So suddenly the cleric is attacked by something he can barely see (standing water in the passage so it wasn't completely invisible and undetectable, I gave -2 instead of -4 to hit). Dead. Magic-user runs away. Invisible Stalker has a 4 course meal.

OK, that's just bad luck. But the first guy through the passage actually found the secret door to the ghouls, but did not look inside! He didn't have any light to see in (it was all in the hands of his comrades before the heat passage)... and I ruled the ghouls wouldn't charge out for one person when there's obviously many more to come (from all the communication down the hall). Maybe these were my fault.

And then from my own adventure today... again involving ghouls. Two characters in a barn... the door has been barred from the outside, but it's established that the hay loft is open. So. You've defeated the evil priest, and the two ghouls are turned and cowering in the corner. Do you leave the barn through the hayloft and burn the place down... or do you charge the ghouls, breaking the turning, and end up paralyzed (3 attacks per round... deadly!) and eaten? Guess what they did? Not my fault!

Anyway, I think my own campaign is going to get a bit more peppy next week.

And I think I need to go ahead with that adventure anthology where it's designed to TPK whoever runs through it by means of sheer bad decision-making on the PCs part. The "Without a scratch or all dead, depending on the choices they make," kind of thing, which seems pretty Weird Tales and sword and sorcery to me.

Shall I playtest those scenarios with my group first? :D :D :D Do I really want to eat those four siders?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Quick Ropecon Update

Ran Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. Used the 3 pregens. TPK.

Ran White Plume Mountain. 6 players. Only one survived, with Wave, didn't get near the other two.

Ran a midnight Tomb of Horror session. 9 people showed up, 4 of them never having played D&D before. 5 dead (one of them twice), 3 of them found the treasure in the pews and decided enough was enough, one was trapped in that prison cube, crawled out using Spiderclimb, and left the dungeon. When they realized they'd survived the Tomb (even though they didn't reach halfway in), they gave themselves a round of applause. Even the players with dead characters stayed to watch til the end. Started at midnight, ended at 5:30am. Great success! The first room took an hour to get through. :D

A1 and C2 tomorrow.

Met Chris Pramas and Greg Stolze and gave them copies of the Creature Generator.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Yes yes... less than two weeks ago I was reminded that Ropecon was coming up.

Today, I've confirmed that, aside from the times where I'll be catching Chris Pramas and Greg Stolze presentations, I'll be running AD&D 1E games all weekend. In English. So I've got "
Palaver table 21" all weekend. Whatever that is. I'm going to be so lost. :D

I'm getting a few pdfs of classic modules to run... but... shit... I'll be making pregens all day tomorrow I think. And figuring out my schedule so I can post a few flyers around announcing start times of the various sessions. Shit! I'm so unprepared. I can run the adventures. I just don't know jack shit about this con. :P

What a weekend it's going to be...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Adventure Hooks!

Ahhh, my setting. That map was drawn in 1990. Being 15 and coming up with some of those names... ay ay ay. Anyway, I erased the Empire's old name, and just made it "The Empire." Sparnburg, Tarrog, and Murdonland are part of the Empire as well.

Anyway, there's a two week break from my campaign, as many people were busy this week, and next week is Ropecon. In the meantime, I'm offering up these little hooks to my players, so they can tell me what kind of adventure they want to go on for next time (their characters are presently in the Pernell capital):

  • Merchant is looking to hire bodyguards for a trading expedition to the northern tribal lands.
  • A merchant says he was swindled by a wizard in eastern Pernell... wants "collection" work done.
  • Merchants are always looking for guards for their caravans hauling dangerous monsters and wild beasts to the capital of the Empire for the arena games...
  • Prospectors in Northeast Pernell tell of a ruined monastery in the mountains that has been defiled and tainted by Chaos...
  • A village towards Tawrburg has expelled its priest and closed down the church - and church officials in Pernell want someone to investigate.
  • In eastern Sparnburg, they're offering hard coin for goblin scalps...
  • Stone Hold (located in the mountains between Sparnburg and Pernell) authorities are looking for 'outside help' in clearing ancient tombs and lingering traces of undead
  • Petty nobles along the eastern edge of the Empire are always looking to hire mercenaries in their battles against neighboring nobles. Oppressed peasants are always sending someone into Pernell looking for someone to lead their revolt...
  • There are the dwarves from the first adventure, and the underground dwellers from last adventure, if you want to follow-up there...
  • Pot luck! Explore and run into a random scenario that I pull out of my folder.

Which would you choose? Why?