Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nine Legged Bloob!

Few parties survive an encounter with the dreaded Bloob.  

Killer DM

Without really trying I've become a killer DM.  Well I mean I do try to kill characters but only to make our games fun ;)  What I mean specifically by "killer DM" is that characters are dieing too often and for arbitrary reasons.  D&D is fun with threat of death, not so much when it's happening every other session.  But arbitrariness is the real killer.   Threats are fun challenges to avoid.  Arbitrary death robs everyone of fun, DM included.

Looking back at last couple of G&G sessions I recognized the arbitrary death and I've spent some time thinking and discussing it with players.  I'm firmly in the "provide a dangerous world with consummate rewards and let players suss out / make choices based on risk vs reward" camp of DMing.  Here are somethings we've come up with.

First, to make rational choices players need to understand the situation they are in.  Where risk is and were it isn't.  Whether their choices end up being rational is up to them.  But, if I haven't provided them the info (or at least ability to acquire it) I've failed as a DM.  To this end I'm providing them with accurate wilderness map as discussed in previous post.

Also, mystery/suspense needs to be limited to nature of threat.  The level of threat must be clear. "No one ever has returned from the Swamps of Almost Certain Peril".  Definitely a deadly threat is in the swamps but is it the old crone living there or the castle of nubile maidens?  This is very hard for me.  By nature I'm a misleader, a trickster, a manipulator.  I like to throw out 3-4 "hooks" and 2-3 red herrings.  Then try my hardest to confuse the players... This doesn't seem to work so well in sandboxes.  Players need to be able to "trust" the information they gather for choices to have meaning

Players also need clear concept of how deadly an area is[btw pretty much all wilderness is deadly to 1st/2nd level].  I'll have more obvious signs, slaughtered knights,  skulls / bones of tough creatures that have been chewed on, big footprints piles of poop.  More warnings from NPCs, [This tends to back fire cause when they hear about Snow,the giant albino wolverine, from the battle scared, shell shocked, sole survivor NPC.  Player's rarely think "Holy Crap stay away from that", they think "hey, XP+loot+DM mentioned it so lets hunt Snow!"].  Also need to make it even more obvious where low-level dungeon is.  So, players don't wander around dieing on "worthless" random encounters. 

I'll start using a NPC "guide".  Someone to demonstrate basic survival skills. Such as investigating through roleplay before charging after everything DM mentions,  listen at the door first, shouldn't we look for traps, there's at least 20 of them and we are surrounded don't you think we should parlay instead of fighting to our deaths, hey this time instead of just charging in and everyone doing their own thing why don't try having a plan and working as a team,  and the most important lesson of all, running the hell away (ideally before people start dieing/knocked out slowing down whoever remains conscious). 

NPC will also help with another problem.  3-5 low-level characters is no where near enough, esp in wilderness where danger isn't channeled along corridors.  Smaller groups are vulnerable to having no backup specialists (healer, caster, etc).  When party flees there aren't enough bodies to provide rear-guard, carry the injured.  So, either injured are abandoned (and die) or the whole party is slowed and TPK'd by merciless bad guys.  There is saftey in numbers.  8+ characters is my new semi-enforced requirment for low level parties.  Doesn't matter how they get there; running multiple PCs, hirelings, henchmen, pets, more DM controlled NPCs. 

Finally, I've tweaked my version of the  Death and Dismemberment Table.  Now with "Less Deadly"(tm). Likely death only on results 5 or less.  More "out of fight results" knocked out and stunned.

When character reaches 0 hit points and every time they take damage 
when at 0 they must roll 2d6 +/- Con Modifier.  Dwarves may reroll once,
taking better result, except any natural 2 is always applied.

2d6   Death and Dismemberment Table
nat 2  "Instant Death" = Decapitation, red mist, or similar. You are dead.

<=3   "Fatal Wound" = Death in d6max minutes.
       Knocked Out until death unless Save vs Death is made. 
       Magical healing allows Save vs Death with bonus equal to lvl of 
       spell cast. Success means Incapacitated 3d6max days. (magic used 
       for this doesn't restore hp)

4-5    "Cleave" = Limb loss and bleed out (die) in d6max rounds.
       Knocked Out until death unless Save vs Death is made.
       Magical healing, a tourniquet, or cauterization allows Save vs 
       Death with bonus equal to lvl of spell cast, if any. Success means 
       Incapacitated 2d6max days. (magic used for this doesn't restore hp)

6-7    "Broken bone" = Incapacitated d6max days.
       Knocked Out d6max rounds unless Save vs Death is made.

8-9    "Brain bashed" = Knocked Out d6max rounds.

10-11  "Glancing head strike" = Stunned d4max rounds.

>=12   "Lucky bastard" = No effect.

nat 12 "Now I'm mad" = Surge of adrenaline returns d4 hit points per hit die.
       If you roll this more than once in a single combat consider yourself
       a Fanatic (treat as potion of super-heroism).

3-11    Lack of helm worsens result one level.
3-7     Optionally use die to determine hit location.
3-7     All result in loss of ability point.

Any hit to head/helm will knock off/damage helm such that it does not 
protect from further hits.

[d4max, d6max, etc means roll max value on that die type, roll at start of each time unit, round/day/week. My method of "tracking" durations without having to track rounds/whatever.]

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Read and RPG Book in Public Week

[To spread the word I straight copied The Escapist's Blog Post.]

What is Read an RPG Book in Public Week, you may ask? It's a thrice-yearly event, held during the weeks surrounding March 4th, July 27th, and October 1st, where roleplayers are encouraged to take their favorite roleplaying rulebooks, modules, supplements, and splatbooks with them when they leave the house and read them in public. The purpose is to make the hobby more visible, promote inquiry and conversation about the hobby, and maybe even attract some new players or bring back some of the lapsed ones.

To find out more about Read an RPG Book in Public Week, visit the official page at There, you'll find links to the Facebook and Flickr accounts and much more!

Monday, July 25, 2011

T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil Session #3

I've replaced the T1-4's moat house with modified Caves of Chaos featuring swamp, boglings, Cajun ogre, 20' tall Storks, a baby Dragon Turtle, and lately undead.  (or at least that is what the players have encountered so far).

This session was at my house a nice group of six players.  Next Sunday we're back at FLGS, King's Hobby. Couple player's reports/emails on group list below.

After the Death of my dear brother, Ander. I was visited by the visage of Saint Cuthbert of the Cudgel. He told me to join the band of adventurers that were mucking around in the swamps. Revenge against the chaotic forces that dwell in the caves and filth. Determined and enraged with the great spirit of Cuthbert. I set my sights on the swamp, though the party felt the need to chase their tails in the woods all day. We entered the swamp, and a provided a nice gift to Januc, he might be a gross looking Orge, but he heart and belly mean for the better. He was in danger with a large crocagater (Must be a swamp term for alligator). After to disposed of the beast and ate some food and rested. We planned to take out the Idol of the Boglings. This would not be an easy task, we had a Dragon Turtle to dispose of, which was causing the mass amount of fog in the swamps. We pulled up to the small island where the Idol stood, and our selfish, dimmed witted thief climbed up and popped out the humongous eye ruby. Which was the plan, but I don't trust thieves. The bogglings began to croak and the beast of the swamps drew near. Luckily we prepped and lit our circle of fire. Though it didnt really stop the bogglings, he proved to be most effective on the dragon turtle. We were able to defeat the best along with countless bogglings. We retreated, but one of the bogglings took the ruby right from my grasp. Kitty sent the surviving swamp dog [Angeline] after the boggling with a command in that filthy language of the orcs. When we arrived to town, wouldn't you know... that ugly dog had the ruby. Our journeys will take us to Verbonoc next to sell this ruby. Cuthbert will be most pleased with the offering that I have for the church.

-- What's his name, Acolyte of St. Cuthbert

Well, Januc is certainly more than he seems to be. When we were leaving the boggling camp after killing the [baby] dragon turtle, my character heard him chanting a spell (couldn't say what it was, nor whether arcane or divine). Not to mention the fact that apparently the shield  [see below for stats] he made for my character, using the skin of that gator we helped him kill, is apparently magical. [It isn't] So he's not just your run-of-the mill ogre. In fact, he may not even be an ogre at all. We know of one other instance where a halfling is apparently becoming an ogre. That halfling/ogre (can't recall the name right now) is using his power to lead a band of human bandits [Jets as in the black gem]. It could be that Januc is actually some other race, and is using magic to take ogre form.

Or he could just be a magic-using ogre (which is also interesting). We also don't know what Ostler meant by the message he gave us to take to Januc. It was something like "We need more of them/that". Januc seemed impressed that Ostler would entrust us to carry that message, cryptic though it was. He never explained, though, and never gave us anything to take back to Ostler. Of course, we weren't really able to chat while retreating from the bogling hoard. Come to think of it, anyone think it strange that he volunteered to help us wipe out the boglings?  Maybe he just wanted to get rid of the [baby] dragon turtle, as it would be a threat to all the swamp denizens, including him. But maybe he had another angle. ogres typically speak orc? [yes] I've been wondering why the swamp dogs respond to commands in orc. Any ideas?

After leaving the swamp, we saw what apparently were gnoll zombies emerge, and move towards us. We lured them back towards the swamp before giving them the slip, so they wouldn't head into Hommlet. Want a wild-ass guess? What if Januc is actually The  Master? What if he doesn't mind us killing gnolls and xvarts and boglings because he's just going to animate them into an undead army? What if the undead soldiers were the "more of them" of Ostler's message?

Maybe I'm way off the mark, but there are a lot of questions out there. I think we need to do some investigation.

-- Bowie Ftr/Mu/Cl of Kord

That, esp last line, warms my DM heart. Getting players to think and wonder about the world, characters, places I have created is my highest goal.

Crocogator Shield
Few have remembered the old ways, such as how to craft a sturdy shild from the back plates of a Giant Crocogator. It acts like a normal large shield and if prepared properly is surprisingly resilient to blows. Crocogator Shield's most amazing feature is providing +4 to saves vs most breath weapons.

btw it's a crocogator cause I kept switching back and forth from crocodile and aligator when describing it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Austin is Great for Gamers

Austin is great for gamers.  I'm guessing the combo of lots of computer game companies, lots of geeks cause of tech industry, and being best place in Texas ;) to live drives up the gamer to schlub ratio. The most gaming per capita I've seen having lived in Kansas City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Lots of old school activity, lots of new school activity, lots of boardgame activity.  Several great conventions in the area.l NTRPGCon, Owlcon are two I goto and love.  Also, various minicons ABGB, oldschool in Austin.  Lots of minis wargaming, centered around Great Hall Games. Big ASL group.

I maintain a Google map of Austin FLGS even though they keep going out of business there are still several to choose from.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Paint Night!

Not much painting got done.  But my friend did assemble and base my Otherworlds Pig Faced Orc tribe.  Even with voucher Otherworld minis are dear.  But, man do they look great.  I have vague plan to get all minis for B2 Caves of Chaos.

Pig-faced Orc Tribe!  Also got tiny winy  Kobold tribe, gluing tiny arms and shields is challenging to my sanity.

Just to make you jealous, pic of rest of my Otherwold minis!  Boglings, some gnolls, lizardmen, couple demons, undead, troll, owlbear, and two awesome Ogres!

NTRPG Minotaur!

I'm working at painting other mini's to build up some painting skills before I uglify the great Otherworld sculpts.  Painted some crappy no detail space ships from I think Buck Rogers game which I mounted on some stands from Heroscape, using "counting sticks" from teacher supply store.   Doesn't really work well, mountings are fragile and kind of ugly.  Much better to buy stands from that one online acrylic everything for games manf I can't remember right now.   Glue mini-magnets (cheap off of Ebay) to stand and to space ship.  Less likely to snap and you can quickly change stands (to represent elevation or ???, and so you don't need stand for every model).  btw I glued magnets into all my minis stands.   Now they (non-metal atl east) stick to my magnetic whiteboard and to my magnetic square grid mat and disks I got from Alea Tools.

Painted a golem thing, troll (pic below).  And started on some actual spaceship minis (not pictured).  Don't think I like painting spaceships.  Straight lines are hard.
Cheap plastic pieces from some game.  White brow ridge is flash artifact. I painted these tonight!

My friend has painting skills, he did this Tri-kreen rip off.

These pictures look better than real thing...

Monkey loves Banana!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil Session #2

I've replaced the moat house with modified Caves of Chaos featuring large swamp and Januc the Cajun Ogre.  This session played out at FLGS, King's Hobby, and had TEN players.  One player's report follows.

Our adventurers were getting their crunk on in the Welcome Wench and attracted the attention of a few scruffy-looking schrees at the bar. These newbie neer-do-wells had the audacity to suggest they should be allowed to join the party.  For a few under the table favors their dreams of professional skull-thuggery were realized and they took off toward the Swamps of Chaos to kill smurfs [Xvarts].

Many steps were retraced through the cave maw and many Detect Trap checks were fumbled until, once again, our heroes faced the inpenetrable bulk of a highly electrified door. After numerous probes, prods, and sensual strokes, Ftr/Mu/Clr of Kord began to perceive this as a situation in which size really did play a crucial role. Casting Embiggen on the door caused it to shatter into a half dozen gnarled panels, sending a shower of sparks dancing across the party's shiny helms.

They wandered up dark stone stairs, careful to stay in the newly clean-swept areas of floor where some poor blue soul had recently been dragged. Salty kicked in a barred wooden door and stormed into the room beyond with Steve, the apprentice fighter, near at hand, sword gleaming in the tepid torchlight.

The sound of puppies had tempted them, and had especially peaked the interest of one H.C. Johnson; but only death waited. Death, not cute puppies as "guy who got killed latter" would discover. The adventurers were quickly overcome by an unending stream of gnolls and gnollettes. A haunting laughter echoed off the walls behind as the trap was sprung. Surrounded, "guy who got killed latter", pious Cleric though he was, found no sanctuary as he was torn assunder between the slobbery, dulled jaws of a dozen angry gnolls (whose blasphemous coupling had most likely just been disturbed by the party's untimely arrival.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy Birthday Dungeon

My good gamer buddy's wonderful wife recruited me to help with surprise birthday party.  Amongst the giant inflatable dice, mini stuffed egg hunt, I drew this on 1" graph paper.

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