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

Monday, January 18, 2016


Still alive! I think I blog mostly as an outlet when I can't play as much as I'd like, and the last eight months or so have seen a ton of play. We've bumped up my campaign to weekly and I'm in a couple semi-weekly games besides. It's awesome. The party has moved on from Strigastadt proper to a hexcrawl phase on the Forgotten Shore, inspired of course by the legendary West Marches campaign (I'm only... eight years behind the zeitgeist?).

The move was partially motivated by my love of shiny new things, and partially by my dissatisfaction with how Strigastadt was running. The long and short of it is that I could not make the ruined city megadungeon feel like the Gormenghast interconnected multi-level maze that is in my head. Big surprise I know. That and I started embellishing the settled part of the city and city adventures suck with seven players, especially when your DM is bad at roleplaying distinctive NPCs. The players still enjoyed Strigastadt a bunch and are contemplating returning someday after we explore the sandbox a bit, so it's honestly my own frustrations more than anything. Maybe I'll go into more detail about what did and did not work in another post one day.

I reckon most of my upcoming posts will be bits and pieces of how I've set up my hexcrawl, with play reports mixed in. I'm going to be honest, I have an unhealthy love of random tables / generators, so there's gonna be some of that crammed in for sure.

Hello again and Happy New Year! :)