Saturday, October 15, 2016

Strigastadt VIII

Tonight's game was with a smaller crew than we're used to, yet it was quite eventful! It turned out to be a super long play report, so maybe grab a cup of tea before you dive in. :)

Belina the (mutant) printer [Jackson]
Barbarus the aspiring chicken farmer [Also Jackson]
Roxanne the wrecker [JT]
Cecilly the acrobat [Alex]

The session started with some upkeep / long-term plans. Cecilly is rounding up acrobats, jugglers, and other performers in a scheme to establish a sort of street performers' union backed by the protection of the Stone Cats. She found a few acquaintances willing to join if the Stone Cats established their reputation a little more solidly (Roxanne: "So we're a clown gang now?"). Work was also done to take control of the Belltower, former hangout of the Blind Vipers and crossroads of two inter-building bridges, where Cecilly hopes to establish a sort of soft toll checkpoint. The resident old bell-keeper resignedly sighed and ignored them as she went about her work. The plan is to have a rotating cast of performers that'll play and encourage donations (the gang keeping part of the profits), all while subtly keeping track of the movements of notable folks. Roxanne is working as a laborer until she finds employment as a bodyguard, and Barbarus (halfway healed from the saw-blade trap in the Grey District) managed to find a chicken farmer to apprentice himself to so he'll have expertise when his grand vision of maintaining rooftop coops outside the Roost is finally realized.

Included in the group Cecilly has recruited so far is Raga Sigisdotr. She's known for her imaginative portraits, and plans to ply her trade below the Belltower when that gig gets going. She mocked one Drosta Sibrosky, maker of accurate but dull portraits. She's a bit jealous since Drosta has recently been patronized by Sigga the Wolf.

Regarding the captured Red Demon Knives of Terror... All four agreed to join the Stone Cats, but two deserted the moment eyes were off them. Roxanne rewarded the other two for their loyalty with silver, and is supervising while they help to restore the Belltower, cleaning scorch marks off walls and putting doors back on their hinges.

The Belltower
While going about these tasks I mentioned that there's a feast-day on the full moon in four days' time (now two), the Stormlord's Feast. In honor of Thegthiec, god of storms, vengeance, and vice, the festival involves a great deal of feasting and general excess. Many groups buy out whole bars to provide free drinks to passers-by, including the Hargrave Guards, the Watchers, the Velvet Knights, and many other groups. Even the stingy and unloved Brinston Boys participate, trying to buy the love of the common folk. It'd be a great opportunity for the Stone Cats to earn some goodwill.

The feast-day has drawn the following people to Krüger so far:
Burgrave Aderfeld, who has dominion over several boroughs, including Krüger. Lady Hargrave and Lord Brinston owe fealty to him.
Lord Hammerfist, who has set up just across the bridge from the Belltower.
Hama Thurison, seer of some renown. Able to part the veil and see Truth, for a price.
Chiongo the amulet maker, reputable dealer in amulets to ward off the evil eye and other fell sorceries common folk are powerless to resist.

An amulet for every curse!
The priesthood of Thegthiec has jurisdiction during the feast-day, so until midnight people avoid conflict at all costs, as the priests are known for quite imaginative punishments. The minute after midnight though, a handful are occasionally inspired to honor Thegthiec's vengeful aspect, settling old scores. Barbarus has contacted the Righteous Banner and they're musing over a possible assassination overnight to make use of this cover... Mork requested Barbarus gather information on Lord Hammerfist and Lord Brinston as potential targets while they think it over.

The feast-day has also brought in various sorts looking to profit off the crowds, including several folks peddling a variety of drugs on Coalstreet, below the Roost. Apparently they felt it reasonable to sell there since it's not in any active gang's territory. The party set out to correct that misapprehension. Muscling them out, they made clear Coalstreet is Stone Cat territory, though the act was of mixed popularity with the common folk.

Speaking of reputation, Cecilly was accosted by members of the Watchers while she was out and about. Looking for a brawl, they called her out as a member of the Stone Cats, talking shit and threatening the upstart gang if they ever came back into Watcher territory. Cecilly escalated things with a well-placed throw, knife stuck quivering in a door frame inches from the lead thug's eye, and a retort that perhaps it is they who should learn some respect. Bellowing obscenities the two men charged, mistakenly unintimidated. Not two steps later Cecilly whipped another knife into the front dude's belly, drawing him up short while his friend charged. Distracted by the pain, the wounded guy threw his dagger with all his might at Cecilly, intending to then flee while his friend did the dirty work. Unfortunately he botched his throw, instead burying the dagger in his friend's neck. Cecilly's next throw was rather more effective. She left the bodies bleeding in the street as the bootsteps of the Brinston Boys fast approached. So, the Stone Cats have some more rep, but are definitely known for extreme violence at this point, which'll certainly impact local relations...

Constable Peters
That reputation came into play not long after. On Coalstreet a tipsy whiskey-jug wielding man with rusted helmet and cuirass introduced himself as Constable Peters, drunkenly demanding they come along quietly. Despite his several unsubtle attempts to elicit bribes, Cecilly and Belina actually agreed to spend a night in jail for appearances' sake. Constable Peters is a bit incompetent, a bit corrupt, and does not have much in the way of backup, so he wasn't gonna push his luck with these violent criminals. Locking them in his 'jail' (spare bedroom) he burbled to himself contentedly as he walked off. Belina: "I search under the bed for something useful"... One critically failed luck check later, a dead body was found under the bed instead. Rolling up an NPC and it turns out to be... a signet-ring carrying scion of Lord Hammerfist with several knife-wounds in the back (but a curious lack of blood puddle). A bit of panicking later (Belina: "What if he's a serial killer?!"  Cecilly: "Nah, too incompetent") they pounded on the door and demanded Constable Peters return, who in turn began panicking after assuring himself it was quite impossible they could have smuggled in a dead body while he arrested them. In his panic he decided to throw the body out his window into the canal below (in broad daylight), but Belina and Cecilly eventually managed to convince him to instead go straight to Lord Hammerfist, and claim they found the body in an alley outside. Belina ran off with the signet ring to fetch him while Cecilly stayed behind and made sure Constable Peters did not follow through with his earlier plan (though he did try hard to convince her). On the way over Belina spotted a contingent of 16 of Lord Hammerfist's men heading towards Constable Peters' place at a brisk pace. She hailed them, told her version of events, was clapped in irons, and taken along with.

When they arrived Cecilly immediately betrayed Constable Peters, telling the true version of events. Belina agreed, changing her story (she claimed Constable Peters had threatened them if they did not lie). The leader of Lord Hammerfist's men said this was consistent with what they had heard, which was that the scion was seen entering the building with Constable Peters and then screams shortly afterward. Sadly, Constable Peters collapsed into drunken sobbing and was unable to defend himself coherently. After the questioning of bystanders as to the party's involvement corroborated their story, the PCs were let off the hook for now...

Roxanne and Belina lingered afterwards, managing to sneak a look at some letters on the Constable's desk. One was half-finished and told of his encounter with a man dressed in the livery of the Glass Street Merchant Consortium led by Greta the Pious. He said the man was emerging from the sewers, surely up to shady business, and that he suspected the Consortium was up to something nefarious related to their recent expansion and extensive hiring of guards. The letter was addressed to Lady Hargrave. Unfortunately the men noticed Belina reading the letter and snatched it from her, kicking them out while they continued their investigation. Belina decided to follow up and report the letter to Lady Hargrave, in case the Hammerfists were intent on covering up that particular clue. On the way over Sigga the Wolf was seen escorting the portrait artist Drosta Sibrosky toward the South side of the borough. Sigga directed them to the guard house where Belina's story was rejected by a sleepy-looking guy with "You better be happy I am a deeply lazy man, I ought to lock up a filthy commoner like you for libel of an upstanding member of our merchant community, but I ain't feeling it right now. At least not if you get out of my sight before I come to my senses..."

Sigga the Wolf - Leader of the Hargrave Guards
Converted mini I made from several others
The party in no way believes Constable Peters did the deed, so the mystery remains unsolved for the moment...

The next day, Raga Sigisdotr reported to Cecilly that the Hargrave Guards had put up wanted posters for the arrest of Barbarus, Celeste, and Leonora on charges of theft and murder (reward of 20 silver!). She says she recognizes the uninspired but unfortunately accurate (as if from life!) artwork of Drosta Sibrosky, and warned Cecilly to tell her friends to lay low. She also mentioned gallows had been erected in the market square...

Later that day, the long-imprisoned former leader of the Blackbirds was hung with little fanfare. Barbarus decided to lay low in the Roost until night, when he'd take a boat over to the Grey District and lay low with the Rat King. Unfortunately, just after nightfall a force of the Hargrave Guards stealthily crossed the rooftop below the Roost, intent on his capture. Noticing them before they got too close, Barbarus hastily descended the chain to the rooftop garden on the other side, intending to use the crops as cover as he fled. As he opened the door to the farmer's abode (where there are stairs down into the building) he came face-to-face with two more guards taking that route. Turning heel and fleeing through the garden towards the Sarcophagus bar, Barbarus quickly plotted a route down to the sub-street tunnels and out to the docks. One crossbow bolt narrowly missed him as he burst through the door, and another nicked his cheek as he sprinted across the bridge on the other side. Baseball-sliding under confused soldiers of Dame Nimeria, Barbarus managed to outdistance his pursuers, using his mental map from his days as linkboy as guide.

Barbarus managed to make it out onto the night-darkened docks where he quickly decided stealing a rowboat was safer than hoping to hide among the crates and fishy cargo. As he rowed away lantern-light splashed across the docks and shouts were heard; they knew where he had gone. Heaving a sigh of relief he rowed into the fog... Me: "Ok, but since it's night-time and you're entering the Grey District I'll just check in case there's an encounter as you head over..." aaaaand of course the cruel dice gods spoke. Halfway across the river pale eyes reflected the bright moonlight. Webbed claws parted the water as several shapes swam towards the rowboat. Barbarus reversed course and frantically rowed back the way he had come, but not before the claws reached the boat. One reeking form pulled itself onboard, wielding a rusted meathook as it made for him. Mouth full of needle-like teeth its scaled form inspired terror. The meathook bit deep into Barbarus' thigh, but he managed to boot the thing back into the water and maintain his footing on the rocking boat. More forms pulled their way onboard as he desperately resumed rowing, one lunging forward and taking his left eye with a vicious bite. Barbarus' only hope was making it back to shore and the tender mercies of the Hargraves before he bled out, so he stoically shrugged off the pain and rowed harder. The bloodstained would-be chicken farmer miraculously made it just to the docks (the two guards panicking at the monstrous shapes and firing upon them) but unfortunately his foes were too numerous and intent on feasting upon his flesh, managing to bite into him and pull him down into the icy waters to his doom...

So ends Barbarus. 

The doom of Barbarus
(image by Pasi Juhola [src])
The Hargrave Guards turned over the Roost looking for the other two wanted murderers, but fortunately neither Celeste nor Leonora were there at the time.

On the plus side, the party accomplished several goals during the session! The Stone Cats are now locally known (though currently of ill-repute), the Belltower is now under their control, a murder mystery has begun, the local constable is out of the picture for the time being, and a feast-day is coming up. A possibility for next session was discussed, that looting over in the Grey District may turn enough of a profit that y'all could sponsor a truly glorious night at the Sarcophagus during the Stormlord's Feast, thereby throwing money at the problem and trying to buy the goodwill of the locals (one of the main reason factions sponsor festivals honestly). Laying low in the Grey District seems like a good idea considering the heat those wanted posters are bringing.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Strigastadt Play Report VII

And with this, the blog is finally caught up! Previous play report: [link]

Last week's session summary:
Roxanne [JT], wrecker
Tom [Mackenzie], fungus farmer
Ludovica [Lauren], apprentice alchemist
Leonora [Bart], spy
Cecilly [Alex], acrobat
Zamara [Heather], initiate of Zig
Belina [Jackson], mutant printer

The party returned to the borough Krüger on the inhabited side of the river, seeking to recuperate from wounds the Vorn Owls inflicted as well as establish themselves as a proper gang. Lo Ren Zao was left in the Rat King's care as he underwent a transformation... In Krüger Cecilly gained patronage for her performances from one Count Marshhold, a smiling but somewhat creepy noble who has recently moved back into Strigastadt, apparently at the behest of his relative Greta the Pious (leader of the Glass Street merchant consortium). Zamara worked hard at gaining new converts to the following of Zig, and Tom focused on setting up his mushroom children... He's rented a basement in the building below the Roost and tucked them away there, with plenty of organic material for sustenance, including a slain Vorn Owl and former comrade Chuck Chuckleston, with the hope the fungal creatures will use the bones as a framework to grow protectors. Only time will tell!

While going about their business, the party ran into a gang wearing puffed-and-slashed red coats, bolo knives, and pompadours, who called themselves the Red Demon Knives of Terror!!!1!  They apparently laid claim to the area around Coalstreet, where the Roost is, and were shaking down the nearby shrines for protection money. Cecilly artfully backflipped in front of them and offered the services of the "Stone Cats Entertainment Troupe" to their leader Udhidg, who was well pleased at the prospect. Udhidg said she expected a performance in two days at... looked around, and pointed at the Sarcophagus, declaring that's where they'd set up their HQ. Cecilly bowed out, and the party began their plans...

The Stone Cats?
Two days later, after the Red Demon Knives of Terror attacked and took over the Sarcophagus bar and called out the people hiding in the Roost to fight (Barbarus - "Nobody here but us chickens!"), the plan was carried out. Leonora had procured a large quantity of wine which was drugged by concoctions procured by Ludovica. Belina, Roxanne, and Cecilly worked out a routine to put on while the others served the drinks, with knives concealed. After most had drunk and were starting to act woozy the performance reached its apex and the party sprung into action. Belina attempted to stun the sober Udhidg with her fungal eye but Udhidg shrugged off the effects. Then a bolt of yellowish energy was cast and people started stabbing... Two of the Knives were defenestrated and a surprisingly tough Roxanne managed to avoid being crushed by Udhidg's meteor hammer. The inhibited Knives finally surrendered after half died, but one lieutenant managed to escape out into the night (to which the party said good! Let the tale be told the Stone Cats have arrived to stake a claim). Those who surrendered were told to join or die, but immediately passed out due to the drugged wine, so time will tell whether they'll convert or desert.
Udhidg's Meteor Hammer

The party's rendition of the Red Wedding took most of the evening, but the Stone Cats did subsequently lay claim to the Sarcophagus and the rooftop farm outside, and are eyeing additional strategic assets to gain control over, such as the old Belltower where the Blind Vipers used to reside. The party is still debating the uniform for the Stone Cats, in order to fit in with the other Krüger gangs. :)  I'm looking forward to seeing how it'll play out next time!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Strigastadt Play Report VI

Previous play report: [link] first: [link]

Session summary:
Belina (Jackson), printer
Celeste (Heather), fisherwoman
Jafar (Mason), apprentice sorcerer
Leonora (Bart), spire polisher
Lo Ren Zao (JT), initiate of Otun
Tom? (Mackenzie), fungus farmer
Zabina (Lauren), Sewer Militia recruit

After discussing plans for returning to the inhabited side of the city, the party spent the night on the upper floor of King Murod's building. After the party heard distant animal screams in the night, a messenger from King Murod appeared, requesting their presence. He informed them that the immediate area was controlled by Vorn Owls [taken in a half-ass manner from Fire on the Velvet Horizon, which I highly recommend], terrible predators that kill all that moves after sundown, and warned them to avoid the streets at this hour. The party offered to remove the threat for King Murod, who was skeptical they could do so and survive. The party bargained him up to offering four secrets of their choosing if they managed to succeed. I think the party decided the threat from the Vorn Owls was being exaggerated due to the rodent nature of the Rat King and his allies. Anyhow, the next morning they set off to take care of the threat before returning to the inhabited side of the river.

Situated in a tower overlooking King Murod's building, the Vorn Owls' roost was difficult to access. The party decided to scale the thick ivy covering the walls as the most expeditious way to the rooftop tower. Lo Ren Zao beseeched Otun, to strengthen the vines and ease their climb. Unfortunately Otun misunderstood and instead blessed them with blooming rose bushes entwined through the ivy. Beautiful, but unfortunately the thorns did not help. Jafar bravely volunteered to climb the two stories with a rope in tow, but had abominable luck and fell, injuring his pride as well as body. Eventually a rope was secured and the party found themselves at the door to the Vorn Owls' tower. Zabina cleared the vines covering the doorway and quietly entered...
The Tower
The first floor of the two-story tower was windowless and empty apart from huge owl-pellets littering the floor and a central spiral staircase. Breaking one pellet open Zabina found the skeleton of a curious creature, horned, clawed, and about 1.5' tall. Leaving the find behind, the party formed a column to storm the second floor. Lo Ren Zao and I believe Zabina led the way, and were engaged immediately after clearing the stairs by huge owls in a room with broken windows and nests of strange materials. Unfortunately when they attempted to cry out, no sound issued forth, and the rest of the party was none the wiser, save for Jafar watching from outside and working his sorcery upon the owls now visible as they dive-bombed his companions. Lo Ren Zao was hit several times by raking claws and fled down the stairs, and Zabina retreated as well when a pool of water spread on the floor next to her, reflecting unseen stars, from which a black tendril emerged. One owl and the tendril pursued and the owl was almost immediately downed by the combined firepower of the seven party members arrayed in front of the stairs, now including Jafar who rushed inside to assist. The tendril took a little longer, but was eventually hacked into and forced to retreat back up the stairs. As they finished it off another such puddle opened just inside the door, though this tendril fared little better than the first. After the tendril retreated the pool remained, and no more owls pursued. Experimentally the owl body was dropped in, which passed through the surface and disappeared as it arced away. Deciding to stay inside until the pool disappeared, the party had a few moments of rest while they regrouped. Belina and Celeste (I think) led the way on the second charge, and were immediately attacked by an owl surrounded by a crackling sphere of red energy, which burned them as it passed by. After a couple passes it flew out a window, but unfortunately for it was brought down by copious crossbow fire before it could reach the roof. It did, however, absorb one of Jafar's sorcerous bolts, seeming to consume the energy as it locked eyes with him.

At this point I think the party decided the 6 owls unaccounted for had fled, and started looting the nests. A fistful of gems were found in a nest of baubles, and two nests of torn papers yielded several juicy bits of information. Some figurines were also recovered, though regrettably no more stone cats. Deciding to leave the tower behind, the party was immediately ambushed by the remaining owls, who had been waiting on the tower's roof. First another owl enveloped in a red sphere swooped down, burning several. Another hexed Tom, who's vision degraded into symbols - instead of seeing objects, Tom instead saw the representative word. Like CELESTE for his ally, and BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD for the wound that shortly afterwards was rent in her side [spell adapted from a curse found in Fire on the Velvet Horizon]. Jafar and Lo Ren Zao ran inside to the second floor, not wanting to be part of the melee after already being wounded. Zabina bravely batted away owls but soon after was afflicted by the symbolic curse as well. Leonora scaled the ivy covering the tower in an attempt to reach the owls above. Belina rained crossbow bolts upon the owls with her repeating crossbow until her face was enveloped by small shadow-birds cawing loudly, effectively blinding and deafening her as she took out her shield and attempted to protect herself from unseen threats. Celeste was wounded and knocked unconscious, bleeding profusely while the battle raged around her. Lo Ren Zao again called upon Otun, who caused the roses to fling their thorns at one owl, downing it under the assault. Slowly the owls below were felled, though not without significant injuries to the party. Leonora managed to assassinate one owl still casting from the rooftop, and finish off another. Jafar and Lo Ren Zao unfortunately were not as safe as hoped, as one owl swooped in to assault them. A murderous struggle ensued, with it first biting off Jafar's middle finger on his left hand, then slashing through and permanently disabling his left arm, then (as Jafar hid behind Lo Ren Zao) slashing into and temporarily disabling Lo Ren Zao's left arm, then (as Lo Ren Zao and Jafar hid behind Leonora) ducking blows and biting off Lo Ren Zao's manhood, and absorbing a desperate last bit of sorcery from Jafar before finally falling to a blow from behind from Zabina. Jafar managed to bind his wound before bleeding to death, and Tom managed to staunch Celeste's bleeding as well, and somebody bandaged up Lo Ren Zao before he bled out. Shaken, the party still managed to emerge triumphant (though missing bits).

The Rat King was surprised they returned alive, doubly so they had succeeded. He now owes the party four secrets, yet to be determined. Lo Ren Zao, his faith shaken by the events, forswore Otun and pledged his loyalty to King Murod, agreeing to be transformed into a "more perfect form". What manner Otun's disfavor will make itself known has yet to be determined... Jafar and Celeste will take several weeks to heal in the Roost, and Jafar is considering making inquiries into having his arm replaced by one vat-grown from demonflesh by a diabolist. Tom learned some information regarding the tiny mushroom people he "rescued" from the fungus-infested place they burnt down, and is considering supplying them with organic materials and the skeletons of the owls in order for them to grow fungal protectors based on those frames. Jafar has gained enough knowledge to become a full-fledged sorcerer, so Belina has apprenticed herself to him. Other party members are interested in establishing themselves as a gang known as the Stone Cats, so that's another thing that may be pursued next session.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Death & Dismemberment

Speaking of characters getting disfigured, I figured I'd share my Death & Dismemberment chart. I found most charts insufficiently generalized for my purposes, so created my own. So far it's worked well, dishing out non-lethal wounds at times but never feeling safe to roll on.

Mechanics explanation - similar to WFRP, once characters are reduced below zero grit they roll on the below chart, adding one for each negative number they've reached. I.E. at -2, if they rolled a six, they'd get to 8 on the below chart. I've got a custom hit location die I use for the fights, so we know what's being hit for armor and wound purposes, which has arms, legs, torso, and head on it in varying proportions.


2 - Adrenaline rush
   - Advantage on next roll of choice
3 - Jagged wound
    - Scar (-(1d4-2) Cha if on face)
4 - Sub-part damaged (finger, eye, etc)
      - save or permanent inhibition
      - 3d4 weeks normal healing
5 - Part damaged
    - Pain Check at advantage or pass out
    - Bleed (2d4 + con mod rds till death)
    - Scar (-(1d4-2) Cha if on face)
6 - Sub-part destroyed (finger, eye, etc)
7 - Part disabled
     - Pain Check or pass out
     - Bleed (1d6 + 1 + con mod rds till death)

     - save or permanent inhibition
     - Scar (-(1d4-2) Cha if on face)
     - 3d4 weeks normal healing
8+ - Part destroyed
        - Pain Check at disadvantage or pass out
        - Bleed (1d4 + con mod rds till death)

        - 3d4 weeks normal healing

After battle checklist:
     - Armor damaged?
     - Scars?
     - Healing times?

Divine healing halves recovery time.

Quick NPC version:
2-4 part damaged
5-6 part damaged and they're down
7+ dead

Strigastadt Play Report V

The next session was a bit unproductive as far as play goes - due to people's schedules coinciding and other factors we had a full eleven players show up, so things kinda ground to a merry halt. They still managed to explore a little more of the fungus building (this time without any incidents of infection) before deciding it was too dangerous and expending a considerable amount of oil in order to burn it to the ground as the Rat King requested. More strange fungal creatures were encountered, and Tom the fungus farmer smuggled out a colony of tiny fungoid creatures who appeared inquisitive and non-hostile. Tom's mushroom children have been the subject of some debate, some characters advocating throwing them back on the blaze when first discovered, and much trepidation shared amongst the rest of the party.
Mushroom children
Awesome illustration by Emma Lazauski,
a print hangs on the wall next to our play table.
 The remainder of the session was spent investigating the second floor of the Rat King's building, the use of which has been given them in return for their services. Aside from skeletal cats trapped in a barred room, the place boasts a bedroom, small ballroom (trapped), kitchen (to be converted into alchemical laboratory), and a shelved collection of geological samples. Some minor treasures were recovered from the place, and the party spent the night in relative safety. Several party members spent time trying to trade secrets with the Rat King, but unfortunately he knew most those offered him. Jafar did trade a secret unknown by the group for information, but it remains to be seen if he will share...

Monday, October 3, 2016

Strigastadt Play Report IV

Part of my ongoing series of posting older play reports in order to catch up. Only a few more now!

A largely different group of players returned to the Grey District the next session, following up on the previous session's lead, flasks of oil and a sack of cats in tow. As they entered the building, cinnamon-scented miasma began filling the street, burning exposed skin. They quickly filed in and beelined it to the chamber from where the drums had sounded last session, bursting in to find swarms of rats and several circles of white mice already formed. The poor cats were released and simply cowered before the massive quantities of huge rats, their exit barred by the party. As they considered their next step, a voice from deeper within commanded them to halt their futile struggle. Surprisingly the party complied, and as mishapped humanoid figures lit the candle sconces in the room, a voice from the silhouette of a throne began to speak. Thusly they met Rat King Murod, lord over secrets, darkness, and that which crawls, and also a rather small mouse atop a rather tall stack of books. The party immediately offered assistance to the Rat King, who considered, and then requested they raze the neighboring building infested with fungus, in exchange for a safe place on the second floor of his building and passage through his territory. They agreed and set forth into an underground tunnel in order to avoid the cinnamon gas. With them went Nimblet, a small white mouse with a telepathic link to the Rat King, who could respond to simple questions by an agreed-upon system of taps. Nimblet rode atop the head of Chuck Chuckleston the militiaman as they proceeded into the dark tunnel.

Chosen servants of the Rat King (Mirliton miniatures)

In the fungus building they fought fungal hounds, spore-spraying rubbery beasts vaguely in the shape of canines, and were forced to retreat when two party members were injured and one began hallucinating. Unfortunately the burlap masks they had fashioned themselves were not quite sufficient to prevent all the effects of spore inhalation from the many bizarre growths. When they tried to return to the Rat King's abode from the tunnels they were barred entry, for fear of infection... 

Worried now, the party struck deeper into the abandoned borough looking for a clear passage to the surface, which led to a Scooby Doo like chase scene as they sprinted from one threat to the next in increasing desperation, fending off grease dogs just long enough to bar a cellar door, walking through a trap with rusty knives, and running from several other strange creatures. Chuck Chuckleston was seriously wounded at this point, but still up and moving. Nimblet had fallen unconscious from spores earlier. Belina the printer was feeling the effects of spores as well, and worried about the rusty knives that had fallen on her head, slicing up her shoulders. They finally ran into a room that had light coming from the cracks in the door, but was also inhabited by a figure in archaic dust-covered armor, who rose from a slumped position and bared its blade. The party ran over to the door while Leonora the trader nervously placated the being, offering it a gift of terrified cats since that's what was at hand. Not sure what to think, the figure stood still long enough for them to frenetically rip the boards off the door and sprint out into daylight and freedom.

Avoiding a seeming trap in the street and vaulting a mouldering barricade, the party nearly made it back to the docks before giant wasps descended upon them from above. They made a good show of it and drove them off, but not before Chuck Chuckleston was struck down by a barb through his upper arm. After several inexpert attempts the bleeding was stopped as he was at death's door, and the party loaded him into the boat to take to Mad Marge, a dockside healer whose services they could actually afford. Unfortunately, several failed rolls later, Chuck Chuckleston expired upon the bloodstained bench in her shack. Mad Marge came out and shook her head sadly. Nimblet soon followed. With heavy hearts the remaining party members carried the body back up to the Roost (the Blackbirds' hangout), for future burial.

This is when the party learned about Strigastadt burial laws! By ancient law, any who die within Strigastadt's limits are to be interred in the walls of their dwelling, after certain rites are performed, and optionally after they've been exposed at a tower of silence. Those that live in Strigastadt are compelled to defend it in death, their bodies or spirits animated when invasions threaten. The party was like "Oh, that's why Strigastadt is haunted as shit!" and discussed plans to instead dump his corpse in the river. They were afraid the fungus that had infected him earlier would bloom from the walls if they buried in the Roost. Which 100% would have happened. But instead he was thrown in a back room until a consensus could be achieved. Meanwhile Belina was suffering fevers and her forehead began to swell with something underneath...

Chuck Chuckleston?
Art by the awesome Sam Bosma!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Strigastadt Play Report III

Another old session summary:

Last session was the party's initial foray across the river to the abandoned / quarantined Grey District, looking for loot. The party had just pulled off a heist on an arms warehouse of the Hargrave Guards, and wanted to make themselves scarce while patrols led by Sigga the Wolf scoured the borough for the culprits. Most the evening was spent cautiously exploring their selected landing spot, well away from the vaguely threatening group they had sold their ill-gotten arms to a couple days prior. After passing over the building overflowing with fungal blooms (party: 'Nope nope!') they entered a large dockside building with ratholes gnawed through the doors.

Predictably, the party immediately had to deal with a flood of rats. After the initial wave retreated, however, a small swarm of white mice entered the hallway ahead, running in concentric counter-rotating rings that began to mesmerize the onlookers. Fortunately Cecilly the Arsonist's immediate reaction to mice running in circles was to set them on fire, so before they were fully ensnared a bottle of oil saved the day. The singed survivors of the blaze retreated into the darkness and the party was thereafter constantly shadowed by gleaming eyes watching their every move. They cautiously proceeded...

Inside the group discovered a locked stairwell with a huge wasp nest inside (party: 'Nope nope!'), smashed terrariums with the empty gnawed shells of what was said to be subjects of vivimancy, a locked room with opium pipes and luminescent mushrooms growing within a rotten dresser (later discovered to be an alchemical ingredient), and a room where Barbarus nearly lost his fingers to a serrated disk trap. After being bandaged up to stop the bleeding Barbarus got good and soused to numb the pain (and restore lost Grit). They decided to retreat when they noticed the rats all withdrawing to the same room, from which drums began to sound. End of session: "We're gonna buy oil and a sack of cats, then come for the Rat King"

Monday, September 26, 2016

Strigastadt Play Report II

Continuing with my posting of month-old summaries to get the blog caught up:

Session recap:
Last session the group put on their strategist hats and drew up a plan of attack for a job Barbarus (Jackson) received from his contact with the Righteous Banner. Mork had requested he burn down a warehouse full of armaments owned by Lady Hargrave's guards, a callous but skilled group stationed on the upscale Glass Street. The Righteous Banner fears that, should the political situation turn violent, the ruthless Hargraves would be a serious existential threat to their people. Several plans of attack were drawn up, including convincing a waiter of an upscale tower-restaurant overlooking the building to conceal them after closing so they could descend unseen, but the party was split over the arson aspect of the plan since the warehouse was on the ground floor of a partially residential building, and a midnight burning would likely entail the deaths of bystanders. Barbarus argued they were rich folks anyhow, and therefore class enemies, but that failed to sway the other members of the party. Instead an alternate plan was drawn up to infiltrate from the warren of tunnels beneath the warehouse, steal the armaments, and use their contacts with the Blackbirds to smuggle them across the river for sale to their buyer in the Grey District. The Blackbirds have agreed to the plan on the condition no-one will know the party is working with the gang, since the Hargrave guards are widely feared for their ruthless suppression of criminals. In order to scout the layout of the warehouse, Chuck Chuckleston (JT) managed to win his way into a fresh batch of recruits via a violent try-out.

Meanwhile Zamara (Maybe??? Heather's character) glorified her deity by brawling in the fighting pits of Zig. She won the first couple rounds but when the tides changed she tried to press her luck, eager to win glory and egged on by the alleged pit veteran Chuck Chuckleston. She earned a broken arm for her troubles, and is now on the mend. Sling and all though she still helped win over adherents to their heist plan with her force of personality.

Delaying their plan a bit until everyone was in place, they decided to try and take on the rampaging shaggamaw (figuring the Blind Vipers were probably too much for them, even reduced as they were), putting together a trap and ambush in an alleyway near where it had been seen. The fisherman used rope to suspend a bundle of cobblestones and a barrel of rainwater above the alley, and tied up a net to prevent the beast's escape. The party lay in wait along the rooftop, with several folks down in the alley with some bloody rags to attract its attention. It unexpectedly came up through a different sewer grate, and the party hastily took down the net that was now preventing their own escape. Fortunately when it got to them the trap worked flawlessly, disorienting the beast and wounding it. It still managed to scoop Chuck Chuckleston into its mouth and was moments from biting off a leg when it was brought down by the sudden onrush of cudgel and sword wielding ambushers. The jerks from Lord Brinston's watch rewarded them for their effort surprisingly, and have hung the body from in front of their guard station to awe the populace.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Strigastadt Play Report

This is like two months old at this point, but I'm gonna post up some older summaries I'd sent out to the group to get the blog caught up, and then start posting weekly summaries thereafter.

Background info: The group has now been back in Strigastadt for ten or so sessions, running a homebrew rule system I made based on WHFRP 1e and B/X, with other bits thrown in (variable spellcasting, advantage/disadvantage, etc). It's worked surprisingly well so far, with a few tweaks. They started out this foray to Strigastadt in a funnel, impressed into service in the sewer militia (a handy way to run a funnel in a city, sewer militia stolen from Heretic Werks). Each started with a secret objective, like half of which ended up unused but dangling hooks for later. With surprisingly few casualties they managed to escape.

Session recap 0.5:
In a shocking turn of events not a single person died! There was an encounter with what is now known as "grease dogs" which developed into a standoff situation, a surprisingly successful battle with luminescent beaked jellies, and an unfortunate discovery that another entrance to the depths had been breached and unseen (but apparently super sweaty) parties let through. While hunting for what they suspected was a party of deep dwarves, they ran into a large band of giggling feverlings who were initially scared off but continued to shadow the party's movements. They massed to attack when the party reached a dead-end shut by a bronze door with complicated mechanisms. Just before they swarmed, the locksmith figured it out and the party slipped through, finding a stairway up to a cellar with doors open to the night. Since they had heard noises indicating the infiltrators were not far ahead, they set off at a run to catch up. Things took a duplicitous turn when the lead party member mis-reported which alley they saw the escapees run down, and the hunted managed to escape into the night. A local group of watchmen was alerted and successfully convinced some awful monsters had escaped from the tunnels below, and a manhunt was begun. One unfortunate deep dwarf was caught out in an alley after collapsing exhausted from flight, and put to the question. In an antiquated dialect he claimed tens of thousands of deep dwarves were massing for an invasion and would attack should he not be released. He also mentioned something about enormous machines made to drive the populace insane. The party returned to their post below, and *someone* left the bronze door to the surface open as they passed...

A Deep Dwarf - illustration by the amazing Gary Chalk

Session recap 1:
Last session the party was released from the sewer militia after the corrupt judge was brought to justice, and returned to the streets above to seek out opportunities. Barbarus the linkboy [Jackson] got in deeper with the revolutionary Righteous Banner political party, offering to aid the cause in whatever way he could. Jafar the apprentice sorcerer [Mason] attempted to assassinate Barbarus' new political boss since he's more aligned with the traditional Strigastadt witch-nobility, but ultimately failed in the attempt (though he perhaps implicated the Blackbirds in the attempt). Garrett the smuggler [Alex] hit up his contact with the Blackbirds, a small gang that specializes in smuggling, who entreated them for aid in an upcoming rumble with the Blind Vipers.

A Blackbird
The Vipers, who each have pale blind snakes coiled around their necks and many rings on their fingers, had at least twice as many folks as the Blackbirds, so Garrett's contact Heleida was desperate for additional muscle. Garrett and Barbarus both offered to help, but Leonora the tobacconist [Bart] and Gin the fancy apprentice diabolist [Cambria] decided a better course of action would be to wait and break into the Viper's headquarters while they were distracted at the rumble. Through rumors the Blind Vipers had been connected to assassinations targeting the Righteous Banner, so Jafar decided he would side with them...

When the time came for the rumble on the bridge, Garrett and Barbarus bravely held the front line against the cudgels and blades of the Blind Vipers, but a party unknown assassinated their ally Heleida with yellowish bolts of corrosive energy from a darkened perch above. Leonora and Gin called off their plan when it became evident there were a few Blind Vipers left guarding their hideout, along with the rumor there may be a resident sorceress, instead winding up drinking at a tower bar overlooking the torchlit bridge throwdown, two of many curious faces watching from the buildings on either side. A bloody affair, Garrett proved his worth by repeatedly knocking opponents off the bridge to their deaths on the cobblestones below, until one Blind Viper managed to wrestle him off instead. The tides turned when the surprisingly staunch Blackbirds managed to down a full half of the Blind Vipers, including the lieutenant Billi, causing those remaining to retreat. Barbarus ended the fight winded and bruised, but luckily without any serious injury. While licking their wounds screams were heard in the streets below the bridge, and a cautious Leonora heard guttural noises and crunching from where the bodies had fallen... It seems the rumors of a marauding shaggamaw were not unfounded. Unfortunately, this meant recovering Garrett's body was an unwise proposition... Meanwhile things were escalating with the regrouped Blackbirds, where furious voices were raised against the drunken absentee leader, who hid from cowardice when the fight began. A coup against his authority may be staged at this rate.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Graveyard Overflowing

One of the traditions I love best at our table is the graveyard - a place where notable PCs wind up when they die. Instead of fading into obscurity, we have a reminder of their awesomeness sitting next to the play table. They're fun to make and take a lot of the sting out of character deaths. Here's our graveyard, now full after almost a year and a half of play over several settings - it starts with Strigastadt, moves to the Forgotten Shore, goes to the Lost Pyramid, and finally returns to Strigastadt. With Chuck Chuckleston's death to a brutal combination of fungal hounds, grease dogs, and giant wasps recently, it looks like we need another expansion...

Open in new tab if you want it legible

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Mapping Strigastadt

Last time I ran Strigastadt I had a bit of trouble communicating vertical relationships of buildings to each-other - 99% of movement was done via streets since that's what was obvious on the 2D marker map. This time around I got some slate & travertine tiles which're working really well for me so far. Since there's only 3 shapes of tiles (plus the small towers), they're quick to grab and plop down as the party explores. Slate & travertine are also dark and light enough for colored chalks to show up on them, so we can mark up the map as we go. Plus it's much more fun to plan out a borough by physically placing tiles.

Material details if you're curious:

Monday, August 8, 2016

Spell Generator

After playing around with the idea of using a metal band name generator for spell lists, I ended up just writing my own generator to satisfy my preferences. A good portion of them are various flavors of summon spells, and of course a good chunk are nonsensical but that's just how things go with generators.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


As previously stated, sorcerers grow artificial bodies in order to duplicate spells. Typically, very short-lived homunculi are used, lasting just long enough to get the job done. Some sorcerers create longer-lived homunculi via this process however, commonly referred to as vatlings. Here's a system for their creation accompanied by some bad scans of crappy watercolor splotch drawings I made.

The demon-flesh samples used to grow vatlings are contained in specially-constructed zinc cylinders that stabilize the tissues for long-term storage. They're expensive to create and feed, so mostly sorcerers make do with a handful of strains, but if a new mutation is particularly useful it can be tempting to add to your repertoire.

When finding a new tissue sample (from another sorcerer), roll random characteristics for the fleshy shells that strain creates (or just make something up):

Monday, May 2, 2016


Riffing off / reinterpreting the idea thread Scrap Princess and Arnold K. have going here and here about spells being an actual lifeform. I am a literal-minded fellow so I took it towards spells originating as flesh-and-blood creatures.

So, spells originally come from demons. Many demons have the ability to project their consciousness outwards from their bodies, manifesting as fireballs or choking mists or whatever. Unmoving, vacant gazed, their bodies wait until the consciousness returns (usually quite quickly). Some people a very long time ago figured out how to trap those roving consciousnesses, first as a defense, then utilizing them as weapons. All spells are therefore unique entities, although there is some commonality in function between them.

I don't know what level spell this guy is but it's bad news [src]
Each page in a spellbook is a spell-mind trap, with the mental key belonging to the sorcerer. You can get a spell from someone, but the process is akin to building your own cage based off their design, and then breaking theirs to steal the spell-mind within. So there's no copying, only taking. Spells are memorized by constructing mental prisons for these spell-minds. The more experienced a caster you are, the more of your mind you can compartmentalize, sacrificing non-essential zones for temporary spell storage. This is why wizards are so weird, they're re-purposing parts of their brain that are normally used to interact like a human being.

The spellbook mind-traps will collect the dispersed consciousness of a spell after casting. Scrolls are easier to make since they don't need the functionality of the re-trapping, the consciousness is just set free permanently.

You can gain new spells by:
   Stealing from someone else
   Making a contract with a demon for the temporary use of its consciousness
   Overpowering a minor demon and taking its mind
   Killing other spellcasters and taking the spell etched on the inside of their skull
   Breeding new ones (the most common method)

Spells on the insides of skulls: From Logan Knight here. Sorcerers, in order to cast spells, warp their consciousness into a prison, becoming more spell- and demon-like themselves in the process. At the end of their lifespan their mind partially congeals into a unique spell etched on the inside of their skull - the effect being proportional to their power and related to their subconscious desires or obsessions. Pyromaniacs usually result in fire spells, paranoid schemers an insidious fear spell, lepidopterists a hurricane of butterflies, etc. The spell-mind retains a fragment of the personality and secrets known by the person. Basically, cast your dead friend/enemy once a day.

Breeding new spells: First you gotta transfer the spell-mind to a corporeal body. Then get it to reproduce. Made bodies are used for this process, special empty-minded homunculi created to mature and reproduce rapidly [edit - vatlings]. Arms, eyes, stability are optional since it's just a temporary vessel, though the size of the body does need to be proportional to the spell's power. 1/6 chance of the spell mutating at this point, per Arnold's table. 1/12 chance of the spell mutating such that it loses the ability to cast and becomes inert. When different spells interbreed there's like a 3/6 chance they don't mix right, and something weird and bad happens. Like terrible mutants, spell fallout, or what-have-you. Homunculi require expensive ingredients, and more problematically, an initial sample of demon-flesh. It's a lot easier to get this initial sample from other sorcerers than the source, though that dilutes the potency.

A temporary homunculus [Berserk]
Regardless of result, the offspring are not automatically friendly to the caster. Do a normal reaction roll, a negative reaction indicating it casts itself at the first available opportunity upon maturation and will try to escape if possible. There are special "free-casters" that don't actually memorize spells, but travel with one or more allied homunculi they convince to cast themselves when needed (Ash Ketchum style). Their power is constrained by the difficulties of traveling with multiple obviously demonic creatures, and that powerful spells can dwarf them in size. (I dunno, like 2' tall per spell level?)
Level 1 spell homunculi? [src]

Escaped spells can be problems. Gobbos are presumed to be escaped spells that have lost their ability to cast but retained their artificial fecundity intended for lab use. Higher-level spells that are ogre-sized are a more deadly threat. Even more deadly when through mutation a strain re-gains their ability to cast themselves. Feverlings happen like this too.

Spells take on personalities and gain stronger wills the longer they've been thought. A 1st level spell doesn't own a large share of your consciousness and so hardly matures at all. A spell with its own body matures much more rapidly. One can only imagine the plight of mighty sorcerers trying to shut out the voices of trapped elder demons. The bargains to convince the spell to be cast must be dire indeed.

Gaining new spell-effects: Other than mutation or getting spells from the wild, some sorcerers master a drug-induced hallucinatory trance that allows them, at great physical and emotional strain, to alter spell-minds currently memorized. This causes loss of XP as areas of the mind are broken down in the process. It's a strong mental poison that alters all within the mind. For the comparatively smaller spell-mind, this means a proportionally more total change, but there is a cost to the host as well. The trance can be controlled somewhat through extensive preparations.

Demons hate sorcerers especially because sorcerers are all running around with trapped fragments of demon-minds in their heads. Killing sorcerers has that extra relish of vengeance. Killing sorcerers probably releases/casts all their spells at once, so watch out for that I guess.

Also I just got WFRP 1e and it's awesome.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Generator Game

[Edit - Refined and PDF'd version here]

Game playtested with my friends a single time - so take with a grain of salt. It's sloppy fun though, and part of the point of it is to end up with play artifacts that can be used elsewhere.
Requirement: an understanding of how some D&D concepts work (DCs, combat mostly). It's nice to have a reference for average AC, HD, damage, and DCs as well for folks less familiar.

Start the game with a stack of index cards. Each person makes (should take < 15 minutes in the making phase):

- A class + starting item (at a minimum, HD and level-up requirement [kill three snakemen per level, etc], but trapfinding bonuses, attack bonuses, special abilities are nice)

- A piece of loot

- A spell (either go Vancian with your spellcasting or have a spellcasting DC on each spell, detail what happens on success or failure)

- A monster (HD, attack bonus, AC, damage, you know the drill) [probably start with 1-3 HD monsters, go up 1-2 HD with each playthrough)

- A trap (needs a DC to find the trap, plus what happens when it goes off)

- A room  (basic quick sketch, links up to some or all of the 4 sides of the index card, can have Things and/or Monsters in them, which will randomly be drawn from the created stack of cards, plus whatever special things/rules are there)

You can't start with your own class, randomly draw until you get a class you haven't played before and isn't your own.  Write up a one-line character on an index card, no need for ability scores. Shuffle the stack of rooms, stack of monsters, stack of spells + loot + traps. Draw a room, for each monster symbol draw a monster and deal with it, for the other things try to search for traps before flipping over the card to see what it was. When the monsters run out, reshuffle that deck. If there are a bunch of people playing probably draw two or more per monster symbol. Flip over new rooms from the deck when you explore through the exits. When you're done with the dungeon go back to the making things phase and add them to the pile.

I had spellcasting working as a pool - you started with Xd6 in your pool and expended portions on casting spells, you could add in red dice to the casting that did damage to you equal to what they rolled, which was maybe too brutal but hey.

I probably didn't explain everything, but y'all probably get the gist of it and will want to change parts anyhow.

The game has like 0% chance of actually being balanced the first playthrough but that's part of the fun. Our testing found us comically underpowered at first and dying after finding a useless piece of loot, crawling through a shitter, and being murdered by the first monster we encountered. Eventually some folks drew OP classes or weapons and they actually managed to survive to level up, and it got easier. Probably best if you retire adventurers at level 3 or 5 maybe, since the dungeon doesn't scale as much.

It's fun, and you wind up with a weird assortment of monsters, classes, spells, etc. We had lizardmen, dryads, buzzsaw rippers, terrible wizard apprentices, etc as PC classes, and weirder things as enemies. Like most games, probably best played with a drink in hand.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Fighting Pits of Zig

As mentioned in the last post, PCs in my game enjoy both participating in and betting on the Fighting Pits of Zig. Zig's cult is filled with muscle priests who worship that divinity of strength, praising physical prowess over all else. Priests especially steeped in the lore of Zig are known to wrestle bears, emulating the myths surrounding their divine patron. Anyhow holy fight club. Brawling rules are a modified form of those found on Detect Magic here:

Roll d20, add attack bonus. Whomever gets higher is winning. Ties = no advantage either way. Crit fail = make a fool of yourself. Crit success = accidentally escalate an extra category.

Fights go from bruised -> bleeding -> screaming -> broken -> maimed/dead

If you win the round, describe how you make your opponent bruised/bleed/scream/etc and you get +3 on your next roll. If you lose, choose whether to tap out or escalate to the next category.

Example - The mighty Blax Jax (ftr 2) is facing off against Jadi Amar (ftr 1). Blax Jax rolls d20+1d4+1 (this is DCC, fighters get variable attack bonuses, plus his strength bonus) and Jadi Amar rolls d20+1d3. First round, Jadi gets 13 and Blax Jax gets 11. Blax Jax gets punched in the face, bruising him. He obviously isn't gonna take that lying down, so he escalates to bleeding. Next round Jadi Amar rolls 9 with his attack bonus, and Blax Jax gets an 11. However since Jadi was already dominating the fight at that point, he gets a +3 bonus which wins out again, busting his opponent's lip and spattering blood on the pit floor. Blax Jax is frustrated and escalates again, this time rolling a natural 20 and accidentally going straight from bleeding to broken, snapping Jadi's arm. Jadi concedes at this point, to nobody's surprise.

Sure, we could have a drawn out fist-fight using d2 damage for each attack and chipping away at HP, but this is wayyyy faster, and far more entertaining.

Who's your opponent?

Fighter level = PC level +-1 (adjust for non-fighter PCs)
Tap out on round: 1d3+1 (bruised = 1, bleeding = 2, etc)


Style Build Demeanor
1 Grappling Solid Taunting
2 Speedy Snipes Lanky Polite
3 Heavy Punches Lean Calm
4 Kickboxer Bulky Furious



As an aside - after trying to find an illustration of folks duking it out in a fighting pit, I am wondering if fighting pits might just be an anachronistic recasting of animal pits, such as this one used for rat baiting.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Forgotten Shore Play Report

(warning, wall of text ahead!)

Due partially to icy roads only three players showed last night, which created a much different dynamic than the 7ish person parties we've been used to. With less people in the decision making process, shit got done! Also, since they were painfully aware of being under-staffed, potentially hostile encounters were avoided at all costs, leading to much less random bloodshed and speedier travel.

Blax Jax the fighter has been taking every opportunity to prove himself in the fighting pits of Zig (muscle priest fight club, have an obsession with bears), initially as a means of becoming more skilled with cesti. We moved to Dungeon Crawl Classics where two-weapon fighting is pretty crappy for fighters with normal dex, so this was a way for him to become competent at what he wanted his fighter doing. It soon enough transformed into a spectacle where the other PCs bet on the fight outcome, almost exclusively favoring his opponent since he had a streak of bad luck the first few times.

Blax Jax's player had just heard of henchmen and was like "man I want a side-kick!" last session so I decided he'd won enough renown in the fighting pits to impress one of the other fighters, named Jadi Amar. It was a bit awkward introducing the henchman since Jadi actually got really lucky rolling for stats and then rolling in the fighting pits, so he beat the hell out of Blax Jax and promptly, incongruously inquired after employment with his defeated opponent. Ah well, the important part is Blax Jax has a sidekick now and his player seems to have become attached to his new buddy.

Jadi Amar the henchman (source)
Now that they were four they loaded up two mules with supplies and headed out into the wilderness. They had several leads from previous sessions, including a golden bear in the woods to the North of town, a treasure map through the hills to the Southeast, and had evidence that a large band of armed men lived in the same woods as the bear. They decided a bear would probably murder them all and were leery of chasing the treasure map they had gotten lost following the session before last, so they decided to sniff out more rumors and, inexplicably, seek out the large number of armed men. Not sure why they seemed less murderous than a bear, but hey.

(In the off chance my players are reading, secrets follow so stop here please!)

They entered the Andin Woods to the North, still creeped out by the fauna in the woods constantly watching them but less worried about sudden murder from that front. I had forgotten to give the name of the woods when they heard rumors, so they eventually dubbed it the Watcher's Wood instead, which is a much better name than mine to be honest. Players naming locales makes me happy, it really drives home the feeling of discovery for me! The first night camping in the woods they rolled a locale-related encounter, and since the closest locale is a sealed prison-casket of an awful demon, several were plagued with nightmares about the creature.

The next morning they encountered a hunting party from the pirate stronghold just to the North, who due to a good reaction roll were not immediately hostile despite outnumbering the party 2-1. Pashi, the party cleric of Owsceish (god of the seas amongst other things), was able to talk the 'sailors' into leaving peaceably with her god's blessing on their next voyage. The party immediately booked it when out of sight, leaving a false trail and keeping double watch. Doubly inexplicably they then returned, following the trail to the stronghold they knew had, at a minimum, twice as many inhabitants as them and sketchy armed ones at that. Fortunately they remained unseen, getting a decent scout on the fort's layout and noting a moored ship nearby. Curious as to whether Jadi Amar the henchman had heard of the pirates I rolled an intelligence check for him, critically failing. Instead, he told the PCs a totally unrelated story about folks who eat human meat and wear their skins said to have been active in the area long ago. This tipped the danger-scale for the PCs in a way a small army of sketchy armed 'sailors' had not, and they decided to back off for the time being.

Forging their way through the wilderness towards the East, chasing a rumor of a crater of pointed crystals able to heal those who spill their blood willingly upon them, the party ran across a tumble-down sugar cane plantation with spring-fed brick-bordered cistern near at hand. Investigating the brick house and lily pad covered cistern, a sweet sorrowful singing was heard from the waters. They asked Jadi Amar if he knew anything of the place and he once again failed his intelligence check abysmally. So he tells more stories of awful cannibals. Creeped out still, the cleric cautiously approached the cistern, the rest of the party under orders to shoot her with an arrow coated in paralyzing toxins in case something went awry (!!). Luckily the nymph who made her home amongst the decaying ruins reacted positively, excited to have company after so long and eager to convince them to share any rum they might have carried with. Long story short, Namia the ruin nymph was bribed with large quantities of hard liquor, freely giving information about the surrounds in exchange. Since she was eager for conversation, she reacted positively to exploratory requests by the party about patching up the manor house and establishing a working sugar cane plantation again.

Consulting their map, the party calculated it was only two days worth of travel from town to this place if a more direct route was taken, and thought it advantageous to establish a resupply point here. After some more exploration in the surrounding hexes that involved a dangerous fight with fire beetles (one mule killing two single-handedly when attacked), and discovery of several cached barrels of silver ore in ruins near a collapsed mine, they headed back to town where they dropped a hefty bit of cash hiring workers and mercenaries to rebuild the plantation infrastructure, along with more rum-bribes for Namia. With lucky rolls and skillful persuasion they were even able to convince the town to double the guard at a watchtower near the plantation, and send out weekly patrols to check on the place. The cleric's recent philanthropic deeds in town were pretty much the only thing that made those bribes capable of working, and even then it was surprising they rolled well enough. Seems like they're pretty well set for a home-base, although it's not really that far from town.

A few more bits were crammed into the end of the session (such as massive waves and subsequent tales of a new island appearing just off the coast), and all in all it was a jam-packed session that went in a surprising direction. I'm really digging how the hexcrawl is working out now! I spent a bunch of effort setting up the original sandbox (of which they've seen but a tiny portion), but now the PCs drive everything and all I have to do is elaborate a bit on how the world is reacting to them. I've gotten much more comfortable with the hexcrawl rules we're using so for the most part it runs pleasingly smoothly. I'm excited to see what next session brings!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Henchman Money Needs

In my campaign, henchmen request 50gp per level up front at the very minimum, besides their 1/4 share and sundry expenses. Knowing what they're spending that money on tells much about their character. I would swear I've seen such a list before but can't for the life of me find it, so I made my own. If anybody has an idea on where I'd seen it before, I'd love to hear it!

1 Pay off debts to... Landlord
2 Physician
3 Gambling House
4 Drug Supplier
5 Loan Shark
6 Legal System
7 Other
8 Gift money to... Impoverished
9 Temple
10 Library
11 Political Movement
12 Distant Family
13 Lover
14 Pay mate's bail
15 Bribe Parole Officer
16 Buy something coveted
17 Provide for local family
18 Funeral Expenses
19 Bribe Judge
20 Massive Party or Bender

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sprue Dungeon Experiment

Looking at a megadungeon map it struck me that the rectangular dungeon sections looked almost like model sprues side-by-side. Wondering how such a dungeon would look, I threw together this quick 'found dungeon' in like ten minutes. Behold, the flakvierling dungeon! :P

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On Theme

When I was running Strigastadt I had a pretty well-developed sense of theme that helped unify the elements of the setting and give the game a certain grimy-glimmering feel to it (although there were some theme swings here and there). I reckon that's one of the inbuilt advantages to having a setting-driven game. By contrast the Forgotten Shore phase we're in now is all about a particular game structure - the hexcrawl. When stocking the hexes and creating the landscape I was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction with the grab-bag nature of the locales, and frequency of generic fantasy stuff I was shoe-horning in. The root problem was that I simply didn't have a solid idea of what the place was trying to be.

A ways into the project, I ran across an interview with Yoon-Suin creator David McGrogan wherein he mentions an approach where you compile a 25-word list describing your setting, to use as a reference to encourage setting consistency and strengthen theme [ah, here's a post of his on the subject]. Doing this has helped me tremendously. I only wish I had done it sooner! When placing locales and describing regions I check against the list to see if there's a theme it can fulfill, or at least have as a modifier. Folks who have a strongly-conceived setting probably won't benefit as much as I did, but I think it's worth trying for sure!

For example, here are my Forgotten Shore themes:
jug rum
strange dark powers