Sunday, May 26, 2013

Archeology in My Office

Back in 1989/1990, one of the college roleplaying groups I was part of (a group later known as "The Elders") had a Fantasy Hero campaign start reaching what in D&D is the "End Game" portion of the campaign.  The players were powerful characters in and of themselves and as a group were very formidable.  War was coming and as an experiment the GM wanted to run a large scale battle using the Warhammer Fantasy Battles rules set (2nd edition).  He also wanted to have our characters present in the battle, so he created a 3x5 card listing out the WHFB stats and how to calculate them based on our Fantasy Hero stats.

Today I went looking for that.

My new campaign is using the WHFB background, with adventures set in my own version of Lustria.   much of the color dressing is being used and I'd like to use as many of the monsters as I can (mostly because I'm lazy and don't want to re-invent the wheel where I don't have to).   I have the WHFB stats for most of the appropriate monsters and needed a handy way to convert from WHFB stats to Hero characteristics.

I have a lot of my old gaming notes, at least my college ones.  My high school stuff is much more spotty, but I'm pretty certain I have the Permanent Character Record Sheet for my first AD&D character somewhere in my office (but none of the rest of them).  So I went digging through the folders and binders on the lower reaches of my shelves, looking for the folder I vaguely recalled it being in.

Turns out, it wasn't in that folder, but a binder containing notes from a campaign-in-the-round we were all running/playing in.  It's not complete (there was a second page with some tables for figuring LD, Int, Cl, WP, and CP), but it's a good start.  I also found a bunch of old stuff I haven't really thought about in a decade or two, which is why I like doing this periodically.  I even found some photocopied pages of the summary tables of The Armory, an old weapons supplement for Champions - I need that book for my character in the Monday night campaign, so that was a serendipitous find.  Eventually I'll get a scanner and scan all my old notes and photocopies and printouts into a document database of some sort, but not any time soon (or soon enough).

So, I'm using home-made gaming tech from the late 1980s to facilitate my 2013 campaign.

Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blood, Gold, and Lizards: Saturday Group - Session 1

Warren - Marcus of the Shield
Kasey - Quetzal of the Jicarilla Tribes
John - Zoglug Ironhide
Rhytch - Jacien Ghel-Aurum
Amy - Belladonna "Frongle" Leagallow

*Session Starts*

After picking up a few rumors and pieces of information and consulting the only map of the area, the group of adventurers decided to investigate the Valley of the Landsharks and the original colony site.

They hiked through the hills west to a point overlooking a portion of the Valley, north of the fork but south of the original colony. They set up camp in the hills on a bluff overlooking the valley and set the first watches.

Watch Order:


Watches are 3 hours each with a 1.5 hour overlap

At dusk, Quetzal spotted a dragon heading in their general direction and alerted the rest of the group. Looking around for a hiding spot, they realize their vantage point was rather exposed - great for looking out on things, bad for hiding. Frongle suspected there was a cave at the base of the cliff, but could not verify that as that area was now in shadow. The best hiding space they could work out was letting lines down the bluff and hiding there, hoping the dragon doesn't see them. Luckily, the dragon, a young one, was apparently concentrating on the valley for hunting and missed seeing them.  It flew over the center of the valley and then flew south, following the course of the valley.

An hour later, a herd of giant lizard-like creatures moved down the valley, finishing a stampede. The PCs suspect that the creatures are reacting to dragon attack.

Near dawn, Marcus spotted some humanoids moving to attack the herd of beasts in the valley. He heard them attack and probably kill one of the beasts (now stampeding back up the valley). After a while, he observed them moving back to the cliff face, but it was dark and he lost track of them...until he spotted them climbing the cliff towards him. He went and woke Zoglug and the two return to the cliff edge, just as the trolls reach the lip.  The fighting that starts quickly wakes the rest of the group.

During the ensuing fight, Zoglug was seriously injured and only the approaching dawn drove off the trolls (the Players spent a token to escape the encounter). The trolls went back down the cliff and apparently into a cave at the foot of the bluff. Frongle was right about there being a cave there.

The next day the group headed north and investigated the ruins of the original settlement at the mouth of the valley. There was clear sign that landsharks attacked the village - wandering furrows, floors burst up from below, and the like. Zoglug, investigating for loot, found a pair of saddlebags containing 400 pieces of silver.

The group then pressed up the valley, following the western edge (in case they needed to scramble up some stones to avoid any landsharks). When they reached a point overlooking the fork in the valley, they decided to follow the western branch. At the end of the day, they made camp on the north face of the canyon. Before the sun sets, a patrol of lizardfolk was observed moving along the next hill north, heading west to east. The group decided to let them go by. During the evening, a landshark attack on a herd of beasts in the valley was observed by those on watch, disabusing the theory that landsharks are day-time only creatures.

In the morning, the group decided to track down the lizardfolk patrol to establish contact. After 3 hours of following the tracks, the group found the patrol's campsite, but no patrol. Until the patrol popped up over some nearby hill crests, javelins in hand. Quetzal talks with them for a while in their native tongue. Their leader is named Tsankth. These lizardfolk are not from this area, but are "looking to see what there is to see". (They are more a ruddy brown color whereas Quetzal and her tribe are emerald green.)  Quetzal warned them of the trolls to the north and that there are more mammals (humans) in a village to the east-northeast. Tsankth mentioned there are ruins at the end of the valley, but warned that the largest of the "Teeth-from-the-Ground" are found there.  Quetzal asked if Tsankth has seen a mammal with only nine fingers and the rest stained with ink.  Tsankth thought on it and then answered he had not.  He then thanked Quetzal for the information she had provided and the groups parted ways amicably. Quetzal summarized what she and Tsankth discussed for the rest of the adventuring group, leaving out the part about the human she is hunting.

The group headed back west for an hour and then thoroughly explored their vicinity (spent a token to explore the hex). They found an abandoned troll cave and a really good cave for them to camp in. The only issue with the cave was that the back was covered in a yellow mold that Frongle identified as dangerous. She recommended simply burning it, but Jacien the wizard has a "better" idea. He started tapping the walls to check for structural integrity and measuring out "blast radius".  He then spread some oil (supplied by Frongle) around the mold and prepared to throw an explosive spell into the cave. The rest of the group rapidly vacated the cave, being careful to move off to the side so they were not in the blast they expect to burst from the cave mouth. Jacien threw the spell and the results were...not impressive (the player rolled absolutely minimal damage). However, the spell did burn out the mold (thanks to the oil). Underneath where the mold had been was a very blackened skeleton wearing burned armor and a scorched backpack, with a blackened sword to its side.

Frongle checked things out for safety while Jacien checked for magic. The sword detected as magical and was set aside.  Inside the backpack was a black stone egg the size of a man's fist, a scroll tube, a group of river stones with strange runes carved on them, and a small bag of coins. The stone egg detected as magical and was set aside with sword.  The scroll case was not magical, but Jacien pulled it aside with the sword and the stone egg.  Jacien then set to analyzing the magical items to determine what they do.

The sword has two winds attached to it, grey and silver. The grey magic provides the ability to turn the holder invisible four times a day for a minute each time. The silver magic is obscured and seems to need a key to activate. This appears to be a terribly complex High Magic effect which Jacien could not puzzle out.

The stone egg seems to be a receiving point for a scrying spell of some sort. Frongle immediately wrapped it up in a leather sack and Jacien made plans to wrap it in lead, later.

The glyphs on the river stones do not match any know script, but Quetzal seemed to think they looked similar to some of the writing forms her people use. The stones were put away until better information is at hand.

Frongle opened the scroll case and found a poisoned needle the hard way, suffering some minor CON damage before Marcus was able to use his healing knowledge to bleed out the remaining poison. He then healed the damage done to her in the process of saving her life. Inside the now safe scroll tube were three pages of parchment covered in coded text. The letters are in the style of the Old World, but none present knew how to decrypt the code. The pages were put away for later inspection.

The bag of coins turned out to be thirty pieces of gold, not coins - actual pieces of gold.

After a quiet night, the group headed further west, tracking the path of the valley but staying in the hills. This slowed down movement but kept the adventurers feeling safe. They occasionally saw small herds in the valley of two types of beasts: one with the tall narrow crest they had seen recently and another type with large armored plates along its backs and spikes on their tails.  The second type they had heard of from rumors in Lucan's Clock.  The spikes on the tail are called the Thagomizer by the colonists, named in honor of the late Thag Simmons.  Near the end of the day the group crossed the valley and saw some mountains in the distance. They camped and set watches again.

After another quiet night, the group continued hiking further to the southwest. Other than the surprising length of the valley, not much of interest was seen and they camped again. Late in the night, the camp was attacked by what Quetzal later identifies as a kroxigor - a large perpetually angry race that are used as heavy shock troops in lizardfolk armies. As this one was attacking the camp, she was not concerned that it was killed by the other adventurers. In the morning, when there was light, the group saw that the kroxigor was a deep green color, indicating it was from a much wetter clime than the dry hills the group is traveling in.  This was curious, but there was nothing else to go on, so they just made a note of it.

The group took stock of their supplies and decided it was time to return to Lucan's Clock. In order to speed up their return, they moved through the valley instead of the hills. This sped up their movement significantly. They were not able to find a really good spot for a camp in the hills at the end of the day and settled for one that provided some cover and a good line of retreat, even if the site was not very defensible. This turned out to be wise as a dragon approached their campsite during the night. The group used the quick escape and got out of the area as the dragon thrashed their campsite.

Starting to run low on food, the group pushed on, using the valley as much as possible for speed and the hills to cut corners on the twisting path of the valley. Within a day from the town, they ran into Tsankth's patrol again. The patrol had apparently scouted out the human settlement and was now returning home. Pleasantries were exchanged between Tsankth and Quetzal and both groups continued on their ways.

The next day the slightly bedraggled and very hungry adventurers made it back into Lucan's Clock. They posted a warning about the dragon or dragons they saw to the west/southwest and called it a day.

*End of Session*

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Blood, Gold, and Lizards: Saturday Group

Here are the Saturday Group characters for my new campaign:

Belladonna "Frongol" Leagallow – a Halfling professional adventurer and cleric of Mannan, God of the Seas. Officially at Lucan’s Clock to support the Temple of Mannan. she may also be there to see that the Temple “has access to any resources discovered.”

Jacien Ghel-Aurum – a transmuter and alchemist of the Gold Fellowship. He’s in Lustria to establish a presence for his college (read: beachhead) and locate “usable local resources”.

Quetzal – a Lizardfolk shaman-in-training sent on a quest by the murder of her teacher. She seeks a stolen artifact of her tribe and a “9-fingered human male”.

Marcus of the Shield – a priest of Shallya, Goddess of Healing and Mercy. He is one of the few male priests and was sent to Lustria mostly to get him someplace where he “wouldn’t cause any trouble”.

Zoglug – an Orc mercenary on the lookout for food, loot, and a good fight, not necessarily in that order.

This particular group of “intrepid adventurers” will be starting in Lucan’s Clock, the official colony of the Sarcosan Republic. I have no idea of what they will get up to or where they will want to explore on the mainland, but I have many (weird) things ready for them. Starting date for this group is May 18th.

I find it interesting that the Friday group turned out wizard-heavy while the Saturday group is almost cleric-heavy (a priest, a religious rep, and a shaman-in-training). There was some discussion amongst players about what they were playing, but not enough to account for this. I’m really interested in how this plays out on both sides.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blood, Gold, and Lizards: Friday Group

First, a bit of business: I’m moving my targeted posting date to Wednesday. For a variety of reasons, I’m not able to get any good writing time until Tuesday night, so I need to push back my planned posting day. I know, I know – I’ve been pretty hit or miss for the last few months and never told anyone that I aimed to post Tuesday mornings previously, but there you have it.

Now on to the actual post material.

Here are the Friday Group characters for my new Western Marches-style exploring campaign:

Albrecht Artyom – shadow wizard of the Grey Guild. Albrecht is in the Colonies to be the Grey Guild’s representative and to stay out of sight of the Witch Hunters for a while.

Alset Alokin – a High Elf lightning mage, travelling in Lustria on a whim. He’s not really avoiding his rival Nagrom DeNoc. Really. Just ask him.

Felix Lutsk – a human fencer with a secret. It is merely coincidence that the notorious cat burglar The Pawn arrived in the colonies at roughly the same time as Felix. Honest.

Hugo Underwood – a Wood Elf crow shaman who has been in the Colonies for a few months – just long enough to anger the Jicarilla tribes, forcing Hugo to return to New Zwicke from the Wedge Wood.

Fritz Schmidt – a human scout, looking for a new home for the congregation he belongs to. They do not believe that Sigmar is a god, which causes…friction. And occasionally witch hunters.

This group of fools…er, I mean “intrepid adventurers” will be starting in New Zwicke, capital of the County Palatinate of New Zwicke. I have no idea of what they will get up to or where they will want to explore on the island, but I have many things ready for them. Starting date for this group is May 31st.

Now the Saturday group will start this Saturday (May 18th), but I don’t have enough of the character sheets to list them by name as this is the more experienced group of players and they were able to make their characters on their own. Not all of them have gotten me a copy of their character yet, but that will happen this week. In fact, the one character whose name I do not have for the Friday Group also made his character on his own, which is why I don’t have his sheet (or name). This is a problem with experienced players: they can make their own characters, but you have to chase after them as the GM to make sure you get a copy.
EDIT: added Fritz Schmidt's name.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Status Updates of Various Projects

So, I was ill for a week and then the DayJob got intensely busy for a week, making me remiss in my postings. Therefore, I’m going to cover several projects here to get everyone up to date.

Blood, Gold, and Lizards

My new Fantasy Hero campaign will kick-off this month. Characters have been built for everyone but one player and we will be building his character this Friday. Both groups have five players with one player floating between groups as his work schedule permits, for a total of eleven players active in the campaign.

The first Saturday session will be May 18th. This group of adventurers is starting in the rough and tumble town of Lucan’s Clock. Beyond town are hills and dry valleys leading up to the Draken Spire Mountains.

The first Friday session on May 31st. This group starts in the more settled New Zwicke. Beyond town here is a dichotomy of sorts: heavily forested adventure to the west and a sea of grassy plains to the east.

I’ll post details on the characters in both groups in later postings, one for each group.

The Speedwell War

Not a lot to report here. I’ve put the novel work on hold so I can get the campaign up and running. I finally received the last of the feedback this past weekend – two pads of paper worth. My next step is to compile all the comments into a spreadsheet so I can track them as I address them.

The odd part is that most of them will go by the wayside as Draft 3 is going to be a major re-write. The majority of the feedback boiled down to “I like the story, but it is very difficult to keep track of all the characters.” This stems from two things:

1) Draft 2 lays out all the action that happens during the story arc, but doesn’t go deep on the characterization.

2) There are a LOT of characters, some of which only show up for a scene late in the book.

So, to address this, I’m re-working the story to follow 6-7 characters and getting the readers deeper into their heads. I’ll be adding why the things happening are significant for the character in question and what their reactions and thoughts are. My goal is to resume serious work on the novel the first week in June (if not a bit sooner) and finish Draft 3 by the end of the year. I feel this is do-able as I have the story arc written out already, what I need to do is show the readers that the events are personal for the characters.

That’s it for now. More next week.