Monday, June 18, 2018

Free RPG Day--Road Crew: "Sisters of the Moon Furnace"

On Saturday June 16, I ran the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure “Sisters of the Moon Furnace” for Free RPG Day. This was my second DCC Road Crew game. My first was back in February, at BASHcon where I had a large group of eight players. I had the opposite circumstance this time, with only two players at my table, but I ran anyway.

All set to go!
The event took place at The Dragon’s Roost in Sylvania, OH (part of the greater Toledo area). The Dragon’s Roost is a coffee house/game store that’s been open for just over a year. I think this was probably their first Free RPG Day. They also make the best iced chai latte I ever had. The ‘Roost seemed to have pretty good business that day; it was as busy as I ever saw it. Besides me, there was someone running Starfinder and the old West End Ghostbusters game. There were also a couple of guys demoing a card game they just published called Master Thief that is all about stealing works of art it sounded pretty fun.

Like I said, I only had two players, which was kind of disappointing, but the Toledo RPG scene is kind of hard to parse, and I can never guess what kind of turn out I’m going to get. But two players or not, I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to run, after all the work I put in to prepping the game.

My players were Gordon Cooper, who I had spoken with a couple of time before through G+, and my newly-adult son Erik. Gordon runs DCC so he’s familiar with the game, but this was his first time playing. Erik had never played DCC, though he’s heard me talk about it a lot. Two players, no problem. I gave them each eight 0-level characters and we were off.

Two players and 16 characters wasn’t the tactical nightmare I was afraid it might be.  In fact in some ways it was easier. With only two players, I didn’t have the problem I often run into in convention games where several different people (usually strangers) low-level argue about what course of action to take or where to explore next. With only two players, the decision making was pretty harmonious. Individual combat turns were kind of long, but after the zeroes started to get winnowed down, the pace picked up pretty quickly.

I’m not going to go over the module in detail, but I do want to hit some of the highlights of the session. Spoliers for “Sisters of the Moon Furnace,” obviously.

The moon-boulder of on top of the well in the first area squashed several PCs, much to my delight.

The PCs never bothered with the jeweled tiles in the first area, so a lot of the magical statue effects never manifested. 

Gordon’s clearly an old-school gamer, as he made judicious and careful use of the ten-foot pole on every staircase and doorway.

The tank of floating heads in the library was a lot more dangerous than I expected—probably the most dangerous monster in the session. Between possession and its telepathic scream it killed something like five characters. 1d3 damage will make many 0-level character’s heads explode like Scanners.

After one of Gordon’s characters got the flesh stripped off their skull from the blood blights, Erik’s gongfarmer covered his PCs’ heads with night soil, making them unappetizing to the monsters. I think this was the first time I’ve ever seen manure used to such tactical advantage in a game, and I was right proud of the lad.

Gordon pointed out that the final encounter in the furnace room with the Warden is illustrated on the front of the Judges Screen, something that I totally managed to notice for a year.

Reading through the last encounter, I didn’t see anything that said the players couldn’t just run past the Warden and the Paroxysms and jump through the furnace door to safety. I decided there was a hot iron grate in front of the door, but a good STR check with a crowbar made short work of that. I certainly wasn’t going to cheat the PCs of their forward thinking just for the sake of a fight. The warden managed to kill a few PCs in the rush, but at the end of it, several PCs stood safe in the Fields that We Know.

From 16 starting zeroes, plus four more replacement characters near the end, I think 5 in total managed to make it out alive.

During a break I did talk to the fellow running the Master Thief demos. He was interested in what we were playing, and I talked with him about DCC for several minutes. I think if he wasn’t running his own games I could have gotten him to play.

Despite the small player base, we had a great time, and I was glad to do it. Both players really enjoyed the adventure. I’m certainly going to try and run some more Road Crew at this venue.
A chillingly accurate depiction of the last encounter.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

My Current Projects

It’s continued to be a busy and exciting time down here in the flumphwerks. Almost immediately after releasing Crepuscular #1, I had a bunch of new projects come across my desk. I was really hoping to get Crepuscular #2 (Dungeon Chow Classics, aka “We Eat Monsters”) out before Gencon, but sadly I don’t see that happening. I am, however, working on a super-secret ashcan project that I should have ready for Gencon, so I’ll have something fun to share in Indianapolis.

So let me share all the fun stuff that all the little flumphs are working on around here.

If you follow me on G+, Facebook, or Twitter, you’ve probably seen that I’m doing a comic project with Leighton Connor again. Leighton and his daughter Abi co-write a delightful sci-fi fantasy adventure comic called Electric Team with illustrations by the one-and-only Samantha Albert. Sam’s taking a break, so Leighton decided to write a side-story featuring Bart Hill, the Golden Age (and public domain) Daredevil. He asked me if I wanted to do the art, and I could hardly say no. I get to draw Daredevil punching dinosaurs, so it’s been real fun.
Pow! Take that, you velociraptor you!
I’ve done a bunch of work for Mark Taormino (Maximum Mayhem Dungeons/DarkWizard Games) in the past, and he just wrapped up another successful Kickstarter. He’s got me signed up to do some more character sheets for the new project, so that will be in the works soon.

Of course, Gencon is lurking closer and closer. I’m running three games again this year, and I need to prepare for that. I always like to make cool character sheets and other table artefacts for my Gencon, so I need to get that completed as well. My games have all sold out(!) but here’s a look at what I’m running:

As I've said before I’m still cobbling together the new funnel for Crepuscular #2 which I hope to playtest soon. The secret Gencon project is also in the works, and I’ve got most of the hard part done for that.

Add caption
I’ve been a busy dude.

While I’m here, reviews have started to come in for Crepuscular#1 and Crypt of Morgrath.

Daniel Bishop was good enough to review them both on DCC Trove of Treasures, and I was super flattered by his kind words. Thank you, RavenCrowKing!

Sanctum of the Snail at DCC Trove of Treasures
Crypt of Morgrath at DCC Trove of Treasures

Over at Beyond Fomalhaut, Gabor Lux also reviewed Sanctum of the Snail and had some very nice things to say about it. You all should check out his 'zine, Echos from Fomalhaut. It's pretty awesome and has some badass dungeons.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Thoroughly Inadequate Silent Legions Update

It has been a busy time here down in the Flumphwerks, what with my son graduating high school, the release of Crepuscular #1, and working on a comic with Leighton “Cowboy” Connor.  That’s to say nothing of various other art assignments, trying to follow up the ‘zine, and trying to prepare for Gencon in (*checks calendar, shudders*) sweet Christ, only eight weeks.

So the long and short of it I’ve fallen behind on the blog, specifically my Silent Legions session reports. We’ve only played two sessions since the last report (I told you it’s been busy), and this recap is going to be woefully inadequate, but I want to try and hit the high points and go over the most interesting things happening.

Broadly, the players are really enjoying the game. They’ve enjoyed the death and madness, leaning into it like the roller coaster ride it should be. My son, especially, has been enjoying it, which is good because he’s the one that suggested a Lovecraftian horror game in the first place. The Factions/Cult part of the game has really helped keep interesting things going on in the sandbox, and I’ve yet to be at a loss for interesting things to throw at the PCs. The heroes are also finally starting to get a good handle on the main factions in and around Seattle, and they’re starting to make alliances and pick sides.

Current Investigators
  • Bernadette “Bunny” Kennedy: Tough/Bodyguard
  • Abigail Spencer: Tough/Reporter
  • Glen Gabriel Gerhardt: Scholar/Programmer
  • Abraham Goldstein: Socialite/Police Officer
  • Vinnie Morg: Investigator/Business Owner (DECEASED)

So here’s the interesting things that have happened…

Vinnie is approached by the Garibaldi Syndicate, the new crime family taking over Seattle. Word of the PCs expertise in the occult has reached Zeno Garibaldi (head of the syndicate) and he wants the PCs to do a favor for him. As a show of good faith, Mr. Garibaldi has “taken care of” Vinnie’s problems in Atlanta.

N-PACT (North Pacific Association for Creative Technology) is hosting a party at the Space Needle. At this party, Veronica Vespers (a trendy modern artist) is to reveal the plans for her new large-scale installation sculpture project. Vespers will have a tablet computer with her, Garibaldi wants that tablet (or at least the data on it).

Vinnie eagerly agrees to the request, and the rest of the players are all too happy to make friends with the Mob.

Meanwhile, Bunny, Abby, and Glen make their way to Yakima, following the cannibal gunmen from the last session. In Yakima they players totally fail to interact with any of the interesting PCs. Thus is the way of player-driven sandboxes.

But here’s what they find out about Yakima anyway…
  • There is definitely some kind of large cannibal cult on the outskirts of Yakima. The cult has some connection to the Top Hat Diner.
  • The cannibal cult conforms to almost every sleazy redneck horror movie cult trope there is. (I decided to make it easy for the players)
  • The cult lives in a run-down trailer park on Old Sluaghterhouse Road, across the street from the old cholera cemetery and the abandoned Ajax Slaughterhouse.
  • There’s a large black pole-barn in the center of the trailer park, heavily padlocked and covered in occult graffiti.
  • All the trailer park residents look surprisingly well-fed.
  • Why yes, there has been an upswing in missing persons reports in Yakima lately.
  • The biggest trailer has a super expensive custom Humvee parked in from of it.
  • They’re having a barbecue that night, and the investigators are invited.
  • The trailer park is owned by a man named Augustus Blott, who also owns a plot of rural land where a militia has built a compound. He also owns the old abandoned insane asylum in Hot Springs.

The Darkness the Hungers
The investigators decided none of this was currently their problem and decided to make their way back to Seattle. (They do plan on coming back at some point, hopefully with help from their new Mafia buddies.)

So by not investigating, the cannibal cult (Blood Message of the Shadowed Fellowship) was able to continue with their plans unimpeded. The world doesn’t pause for the PCs! That night, after the “barbecue” the cult opened the vault in the floor of the pole barn and called upon their ghoul allies (“the old fellers”). The ghouls performed an augury on the guts of a sacrifice and determined that the Rheinholdt Manuscript (stolen by Chase the rival cultist way back when) is in a Pawnshop in Seattle. The cult sends a retrieval team to PC’s neighborhood!

A few days pass in Seattle, and the PCs spend time getting ready for the party at the Space Needle (it’s super fancy). We are also joined by a new player and his PC, semi-retired police officer Abraham Goldstein.

The cannibal cultists enter Vinnies’ Pawnshop, dressed in their Sunday best. Bunny recognizes one of the gunmen from the fracas at the apartment complex. They inquire about rare books, especially those dealing with “esoteric” subjects. They don’t seem to believe Vinnie when he tells them he has nothing like what they’re looking for, but they leave anyway.

The PCs hide the Rheinholdt Manuscript in Glen’s apartment. Glen’s player isn’t here this week, and my players know I won’t kill and absent player’s character off-screen. I can’t argue with this lite meta-gaming, and it moves the story along anyway.

The PCs arrive at the Space Needle and it’s a big fancy party with a lot of rich and beautiful people. Danielle Blake. She is Pakistani-British, very agitated, and if not yet insane, then close to it. They find out she is another occult investigator, on the trail of The Rite of Gray Truth and has made connections with them and Lasalle Industries.
On their way in, they run into a woman named

Lasalle Industries is a major corporation in Seattle. Marcus Lasalle is a member of N-Pact and Veronica Vesper’s patron. The PCs and Danielle decide to work together.

At the party, the PCs meet and talk to a variety of interesting character. I will make a separate post later about the mix-and-mingle charts I came up with.

The most fun NPC to play was Thomas J. Bundy of Thomas J. Bundy Motors!, the owner of the biggest car dealership in Seattle (“Why don’t you come down to the dealership on Monday! We’ll set you up with something nice and big!”) . Turns out he’s the guy that sold Augustus Blott his Humvee. The PCs make note to visit Bundy later.

Veronica Vesper’s tablet kept moving around. I had a random table for “Where is the Tablet now?” At one point it was in the briefcase of Luke Patton, Lasalle’s intimidating personal bodyguard.

Vinny overhears Lasalle and Patton talking about some kind of shoot-out between the Garibaldi Syndicate and Lasalle’s “Thaumic Assets Division.” It’s all very sinister.

Eventually Vesper gives her presentation and the tablet is in her possession. Abraham fakes a heart attack, and Bunny lifts the tablet in the confusion.

The presentation reveals Vesper’s new art project. It’s a series of five motion sculptures of various sizes. They resemble Mobius loops made of mirrored tiles with three spires weaving in and out of the loop. The whole thing causes a weird euphoria to look at (1 Madness).

(The PCs haven’t figured this out yet, but they will when they have a chance to examine the data. The sculptures are components of a large-scale summoning ritual that will free Dahg-Othyg-Zoag from his prison in the center of a super-massive black hole and bring the alien god to Earth.)

That’s when the power goes out!

The cannibal cult attacks the Space Needle! While the PCs were out, the cult broke into Vinny’s home, found his hairbrush and used his hair to track him here!

The cult strike team consists of four mundane gunmen, a petty sorceress, and the half-ghoul cursed warrior with a black katana. Chaos and panic ensues. Great winged beasts crash through the windows, looking for Vinny!

It’s cult-on-cult violence! Lasalle uses the Despicable Worm to create Some Hideous Thing of Raw Muscle and Ropey Tendons. His bodyguard Patton pulls on a mirrored mask, revealing him to be the lead gunman at the hotel shoot-out from two sessions ago.

Bunny, Abraham, and Abby let the rival cults clear the stairwells of each other. Bunny has the tablet, it’s time to get out of there.

Danielle Blake blasts one of the monsters with some weird alien cancer gun. She is then lost in the fracas. (She will pop up again, to be sure.)

Vinnie, poor brave Vinnie, he was in a separate room from his friends when the fighting started. The half-ghoul and the sorceress are gunning for him specifically because he knows where the Rheinholdt Manuscript is. He takes cover behind the bar and starts making and throwing Molotov cocktails (because it’s not a real game until the Molotov cocktails come out). The fire succeeds in driving the half-ghoul away and kills the sorceress. Sadly the fire gets out of control (Vinnie had previously spilled booze all over the bar so the whole thing would light up). Vinnie’s player makes a couple of bad rolls, and we lose our second to fatal flames.

The session ends with the surviving PCs stealing the cannibal cultist’s awesome 70s van and driving home.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Crepuscular #1: Sanctum of the Snail--NOW ON SALE!

The first issue of my new adventure-zine for Dungeon Crawl Classics is finally here! 

Creupuscular is a zine dedicated to Dungeon Crawl Classics and includes new adventures, patrons, spells, magic items, and other gamable content. Issue #1 is a 48-page comic-sized book, written and illustrated by me, Josh Burnett. The inaugural issue features a new 0-level funnel adventure, Sanctum of the Snail.

It was a fairly pleasant trip until the storm hit. Your ship sank, and now you and the other survivors--peasants, pilgrims, and gongfarmers--are stuck on this jagged spire in the middle of the ocean. The storm rages all around you while monsters crawl out of the sea. It looks like the only way off this rock is down through that weird door. Who will live and who will die in this 0-level funnel adventure?

This issue also includes:
  • Sanctum of the Snail: a 0-level funnel adventure!
  • Blorgamorg, the Chthonic Snail: a new patron, complete with spells!
  • New magic items!
  • The adventures of Moonblossom & Chance!
  • 30 NPC henchmen for hire!

I've very excited to release this zine, and I hope you all enjoy it, too.

Crepuscular #1 is available in PDF from DriveThruRPG
You can get the print version HERE. My initial print run was pretty small (I already put in a second), so act fast!

You can also see a quick video preview of the book below.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Silent Legions: Room Service! (Session Report)

The Khamsa Society headed off to Centralia to hunt down Kevin Branch, wannabe cultist. Vinnie’s player was sick, so he stayed home and minded the store, literally. (As a pawn-broker, Vinnie Morg is the only PC with an actual day job.)

The PCs for this session:
  • Bernadette "Bunny" Kennedy (Tough/Bodyguard)--A former circus strong woman who turned to occult investigation "just like the old gypsy lady said." 
  • Abigail Spencer (Tough/Reporter)--Former YouTube star and ghost hunter. 
  • Lucian Stone (Scholar/Programmer)--A hacker who lives and breathes the occult sites of the Deep Web. An occult Alex Jones. 

 Centralia is a town of 16,000 about an hour south of Seattle. It’s coal industry has not recovered from the (fictional) mine collapse a year ago that killed 50 people. It has growing business in light industry and tourism, but unemployment remains high. As the PCs pull into town, Centralia is experiencing unusually heavy snowfall.

Clever hacking and research has traced Kevin to the Brown Roof Motor Lodge, a run-down motel that's cheap and doesn’t ask a lot of questions. It’s a pretty crummy place full of societal unfortunates. Bunny pretends to be Kevin’s sister and fast talks the desk manager into telling them her where Kevin’s room is. 

Lucian disables the security cameras while Abigail knocks on Kevin’s door. “Room service!” she calls. Of course, a motel like this doesn’t have room service, and Abigail clearly meant “housekeeping,” but what’s done is done. Kevin opens the door, holding a large gun mere inches from Abigail’s face. “Did Chase send you? I’m not going back!”

Thankfully, Bunny is unusually eloquent this session. “Ashley sent us! She’s worried about you. Chase is dead!” she says. This revelation softens Kevin up a bit, but he’s still cautious. He makes the PCs all show him their inner arm, to prove they don’t bear the Bleak Sigil of The House of Broken Glass. Convinced they aren’t cultists, Kevin lets the PCs into his room.

Kevin’s clearly been living rough. He has a duffel bag full of clothes and a new burner phone. He’s growing out his beard and he shaved his head, burning all the hair. “So they can’t use it to work magic on me. “

The investigators are totally open with Kevin, telling him all about the events at the Old Penderghast House—how Ashley is safe, all the others are dead, and Chase’s plans to open the Way were thwarted.

In return, Kevin tell them everything he knows about the cult:
  • Kevin met Chase and Amber about a year ago at a concert. He got Kevin and some other peopleinto the occult, telling them that it was the path to some “real truths.”
  • Chase answered to some other people—powerful, moneyed people, not shlubs like us. Chase wanted these peoples’ respect. This cult is called The Rite of The Gray Truth.
  • Chase stole a book from somewhere in Yakima. He was going to use the info found in the book to bind Penderghast’s Walker Between and gain prestige with the cult.
  • Kevin had been dating Ashley for about three months, and Chase never liked her. When Kevin found out Chase was going to sacrifice her (along with Logan and Mackenzie), it was too much for Kevin. He decided to get out of town and get away from the cult.
  • Before he left town, he went to Chase’s apartment, stole the book, and bugged out of town.

“Chase’s bosses, they were on to something big. Chase wanted to be a part of it!”

Kevin shows the investigators the book, pulling it out of a large duffel bag. The book is the size of a couch cushion, and almost 600 years old. Lucian and Abigail recognize it as The Rheinholdt Manuscript. This is an infamous book among magical circles. Supposedly it’s the memoirs of an immortal creature known only as “Rheinholdt,” alternately referred to in the text as a vampire, a sorcerer, or a wight. It is considered one of the greatest books of occult history and lore. It is also said to be dreadfully cursed. Still, any cult or occultist would gladly kill to possess it. Kevin gladly hands it over to the PCs.

It’s at that moment that the investigators hear someone shouting outside.  “Kevin! Come out Kevin!”

Outside, the PCs spot a large black SUV in the parking lot with no plates. The snow has only gotten heavier. Four figures in long black coats stare up at the hotel. Three wear balaclavas, one wears a strange mask like a blank mirror (“like Cobra Commander!”) with an electronically distorted voice. (These are Cult Gunmen assets from the Rite of Grey Truth’s cult sheet.)

“Oh shit! They found me!” Kevin panics. Lucian and Abigail immediately tip over the bed mattress and use it to black the window. There’s no back exit, so Bunny heads to the bathroom and begins to smash a hole through the wall with a crowbar, to make a path to the adjoining hotel room.

Lucian and Abigail hear a horrible noise outside--arcane chanting followed by strangled gurgling and the sound of tearing meat. A few moments later, some hideous thing of raw muscle and ropey tendons breaks through the window and claws its way through the mattress.

Some Hideous Thing of Raw Muscle and Ropey Tendons
(Stalker, Ravenous)
Ascending AC: 13
HD: 4; hp: 25
Morale:  9
Save: 12+
Skill: +3
Move: 50’
Madness: 1d10
Attacks: Claws x2 (+5 to hit, 1d8 damage)
Special: If both claw attacks hit a single target, that target must make an Evasion Save. If the save fails, the monster bites their head off.

About that time, Bunny has busted tough the wall, disrupting a naked old couple, who are not happy to see the strongwoman and have a shotgun to prove it. “ISIS! They’re here!” Bunny shouts.

“I always knew it would come to this,” says the naked old man, pulling on his MAGA hat and letting Bunny through as he prepares to defend the hotel himself.

Back in Kevin’s room, Lucian lobs on of his pre-made Molotov cocktails at the monster, setting it, the mattress, and the whole room on fire.  This buys Lucian, Abigail, and Kevin enough time to follow Bunny through her self-made escape route (which I totally failed to call a Bunny Hole.)

The entire hotel  building is well and truly on fire at this point, and the party separates on the balcony, trying to draw the cult gunmen apart. Hotel residents are running all over the place in a panic. Lucian runs towards one set of stairs, trying to make it to the parking lot and is cut off by a gunman running around the corner. Lucian, brave brave Lucian, lobs another Molotov at the cultist, putting a nice wall of fire between them, then leaps over the balcony railing, hoping for the best.

The scrawny hacker bounces off the hood of a car and rolls to the ground, hurt but alive. He tries to scrabble to cover behind the car. Unfortunately, the cult gunman sees him and opens fire. Lucian is hit and goes down bad.

On the other side of the hotel, Bunny, Abigail, and Kevin are running for their car. Another gunman rounds the corner but Abigail quickly puts him down with her own gun. (Abigail’s player: “After a year of D&D and swords, it’s kind of fun just to blast a guy with a Glock!”) It’s clearly self-defense, so no Madness this time around!

Bunny and Abigail spot the leader of the gunmen, the guy with the mirror mask. He’s carrying an AR-15 like he knows how to use it. Panicked hotel residents are still running around everywhere, and the gunman calmly rifle-butts them in the skulls as he bears down on Kevin. He doesn’t seem to notice the PCs. Suddenly the hideous thing of raw muscle and ropey tendons leaps from the top of the building and pins Kevin to the ground. It makes a noise like the cracking of a hundred knuckles in  a metal closet before tearing Kevin’s neck out.

The cult gunmen and their pet monster seem focused on Kevin, the PCs didn’t really like the boy that much, so Bunny and Abigail get in their car and burn rubber. They slow down enough to grab the unconscious Lucian and head for the hospital.

In Abigail’s car, Bunny is barely able to stabilize Lucian before they get to the hospital. Abigail opts to stay in the hospital parking lot while Bunny checks their friend into the ER. Sadly, Lucian’s wounds are too severe, and he’s not going to pull through. While Bunny waits inside through the night, Abigail spots a familiar and ominous black SUV drive by the hospital, slowing down as it passes her car before speeding away. The snow finally stops, as though the SUV is talking the weather with them.

The failed recovery rolls for Lucian indicated that he will die in three weeks. Rather than wait that long, Lucian’s player rolled up a new character right now. Lucian remains comatose, awaiting his inevitable demise.

The investigators return to Seattle to plot their next move and meet up with Glen Gerhardt (Scholar/Programmer), an associate of Lucian’s and another gray-hat hacktivist. The team decides to check out Chase’s apartment, where Kevin stole the (already stolen) Rhienholdt Manuscript. Chase lived at the Three Pines Apartment Complex with three roommates. It’s the kind of cheap, cruddy  apartments that caters to students and low-income 20-somethings (I’ve lived in several myself).

As the investigators approach Chase’s apartment around noon, they see that the door is open—busted in, actually. Bunny creeps up to take a listen. She can smell blood and death inside and hears two or three people shuffling around, as well as the sound of someone chopping meat.

“Hank,” says a voice inside, “what are you doing in there?”
“Shoot, Geeezer,” says another voice. “It’s good meat, I ain’t gonna’ let it go to waste.”

Yeah, the PCs don’t want to deal with that, so they beat it back outside and drive across the street to the laundromat.

“Why don’t we just call the police on this one?”  asks Bunny. Everyine pauses to think. “Yeah, why don’t we?”  The investigators call the police and leave an anonymous tip about a murder. Then they hunker down, turn on their police band radio, watch and wait.

After a few minutes, a cop car pulls into the apartment parking lot, and two officers enter the complex. Over the radio, the PCs hear the police discover the dead bodies of a couple of young people, the the sounds of gunfire! Moments later, two people run out of the complex carrying a third person between them. The two are a man and a woman in Mossy Oak camo and wearing ballistic vests. Both carry big knives, pistols, and the woman is limping. Between them, they carry another man, similarly dressed. He’s clearly been shot. They dump him into the back of their pick-up and peel out of the parking lot. The PCs follow them, using Abigail’s careful pursuit driving skills. (A sticker on the back of the truck reads “The only thing that can stop a bad man with a gun is an even badder man with a gun.”)

The truck quickly heads east out of town. Glen does some quick research on his smartphone and finds out the truck is registered in Yakima, exactly the direction they are travelling. Next week we pick up in Yakima.

A lot of action, a little levity, and not a lot of madness this session. Cultists are a lot easier to deal with that spatially-distorted haunted houses and occult beasts. The relatively mundane cultists were easier for me to make interesting than I thought. The move and counter-move semi-plot of different factions and NPCs harkened back to a lot of the World of Darkness games I used to run all those years ago. As for using real-life cities as settings, Wikipedia and tourist sites give me just enough bits of flavor that I can make the places feel believable while still having enough room to add some fictional weirdness. This campaign is starting to come together!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Silent Legions: Cult Actions

I ran an extended Stars Without Number a few years ago, but I never used the faction rules very much. My players caused enough trouble, combined with my own metaplot ideas, that they weren’t really necessary. When I started my current Silent Legions game, though, I was dedicated to giving the cult rules a fair spin.

I haven’t found any examples of the Cult Turn on the internet (not surprising, given the general dearth of SL session reports), so I thought I’d go through my Cult Turns here on the blog. This Cult Turn takes place during the 2-3 weeks of downtime after the Khamsa Society burned down the Old Penderghast House.  This is the first Cult Turn of the campaign, so there’s not a lot of action just yet, mostly the different factions setting up for future endeavors.

Right now, there are four factions of interest in the Washington region. Not all of them are on the PCs’ radar yet.

The Cults
  • Rite of the Gray Truth: A cult based in Seattle dedicated to Dagh-Othyg-Zoag and the House of Broken Glass. It’s a technologically saavy group, that includes many rich and powerful people among its membership. (Muscle: 2, Sorcery: 4, Influence: 5)
  • The Garibaldi Syndicate: A crime syndicate, also in Seattle, that moved in after the feds busted the Colacurcio family. They’ve been pretty subtle so far, and have only just started to experiment with occult assets. (Muscle: 5, Sorcery: 2, Influence: 4)
  • Blood Message of the Shadowed Fellowship: A cult based in Yakima dedicated to K’Thoth-Iä, the Hungering Dark. This is a cannibal death-cult based out of a trailer park with a couple of survivalist militia camps at their command. (Muscle: 4, Sorcery: 5, Influence: 2)
  • Circle of the Dreaming Mother: A cult based in the ghost town of Millstone dedicated to Hothiaiq, the goddess of dreams, memory, and telepathy, and Dagh-Othyg-Zoag’s consort. While not antagonistic towards the Rite of Gray Truth, the Circle isn't really allied with them either. Currently they are responsible for the production of distribution of the drug “black sugar” that is infecting Seattle and other cities. (Muscle: 1, Sorcery: 3, Influence: 2)

Drawing Power
Seattle is a Power: 4 location, but since the Rite of Gray Truth and the Garibaldi Syndicate both have strongholds there, the factions can only draw 2 power from it. Right away we have a conflict set up between the two most powerful cults. They both want that power!
  • Gray Truth draws 5 power from its various sources and has a total upkeep of 4, for a net gain of 1 power.
  • The Syndicate draws 4 power from its resources and has 3 upkeep, also giving it net gain of 1 power.
  • Blood Message draws 5 power and only has an upkeep of 1. It also doesn’t have to share its power with anyone. The cult nets 4 power.
  • The Dreaming Mother is smaller than the other three cults. It only draws 2 power, and also has an upkeep of 2. The cult's total power gain is 0.

Cult Actions
This is the first Cult Turn of the campaign, so everyone’s assets are hidden at the start of the turn.

For this first turn, I’m not rolling initiative. I’m going to have each cult take their action in the order of how entangled they currently are with the PCs’ actions. I’ll have the cults roll off initiative in future turns.

Rite of the Gray Truth
They want to find out who’s competing with them for power in Seattle, so they take the Investigate Location action in that city. Gray Truth and the Syndicate roll Influence vs Influence, and Gray Truth wins. All of the Syndicate’s assets in Seattle (which is most of them) lose their “hidden” status.

To spin this into the campaign’s fiction, I have a news report come out in the local papers. Investigative reporter Kim Frost (an NPC connected on my list of actors for the Rite of Gray Trurth), has confirmed that a new crime syndicate has moved into the city. Local businessman and land developer Donatello Garibaldi is rumored to have several unsavory connections to the local police. Reports of graft and corruption abound.

They do not have the spare power to use for the free Create Asset or Improve Stronghold action.

Garibaldi Syndicate
They also want to find out who’s leeching Seattle’s power, so they take the Investigate Location action. Unfortunately for them, they also lose the Influence vs Influence roll, so the Gray Truth’s assets remain hidden. If the PC’s draw too much attention with their occult investigations, maybe the Syndicate will approach them and make a deal with them to look into the rival faction.

They do not have the spare power to use for the free Create Asset or Improve Stronghold action.

Blood Message of the Shadowed Fellowship
They’re setting pretty right now, as the only occult power in Yakima. They decide to lay low and build their power base before stretching their tendrils elsewhere. The take the Serve Cause action and gain another 2 power (6 total) as they perform their unspeakable ghoul orgies.

For their free Imrprove Stronghold action, the cult spends 4 power to increase one of their stronghold from level 1 to level 2. What was once a simple hunting lodge (over an old Indian burial ground) has now become a fortified survivalist compound.

Circle of the Dreaming Mother
The smallest faction is hurting for power, so they take the Serve Cause action. They gain 1 power as cult psychonauts ply the realms of nightmare and harvest black sugar from alien spider-wasps.

They do not have the spare power to use for the free Create Asset or Improve Stronghold action.

That’s where things stand for now. Like I said, it’s mostly just quiet set-up this round. The second Cult Turn should be coming up shortly with more action. I expect the Gray Truth will make a strike at the Syndicate, while the Syndicate desperately tries to hide its assets. Already we have some drama unfolding between some of the factions. My goal now is to suck the PCs into the mix.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Burning Down the House (Silent Legions Session Report)

Our latest Silent Legions session was short, but our brave investigators wrapped up the Old Penderghast House case and started making plans for their next phase of investigations.

The Khamsa Society: 

  • Bernadette "Bunny" Kennedy (Tough/Bodyguard)--A former circus strong woman who turned to occult investigation "just like the old gypsy lady said." 
  • Abigail Spencer (Tough/Reporter)--Former YouTube star and ghost hunter. 
  • Lucian Stone (Scholar/Programmer)--A hacker who lives and breathes the occult sites of the Deep Web. An occult Alex Jones. 
  • Vinne Morg (Investigator/Business Owner)--A pawn broker who had to leave Atlanta after he sold the wrong piece of weird jewelry and attracted unwanted attention from mysterious forces. 
When we had last seen them, the PCs had just escaped the brass insects from Ligeia’s tomb Kelpiot and re-entered the house through the weird alien clock. They heard thumping footsteps upstairs and the heavy thud of something rolling down the nearby stairs. Reluctantly they looked, just in time to see Officer Park’s severed head roll down the stairs and come resting at their feet. Vinne was the only one brave enough to look up the stairs, while the rest of the team ran off through the back hallway to the kitchen and the cellar door. At the top of the stairs stood a horrible co-mingling of Logan and Mackenzie, their flesh run together like molten wax. The horrid thing walked clumsily on three legs. One arm ended in an iron fireplace poker. The other, elongated, double-elbowed arm ended in Mackenzie’s ruined head, her snapping jaw full of broken teeth. The thing’s horrid bruised flesh crisscrossed in glowing black-light veins. Vinnie ran to join his friends. (“Oh shit, guys. The monsters are Voltron-ing!”)

Horrible Comingled Thing 
AC: 11 (as unarmored human)
HD: 4 (24 hp)
Attacks: Poker: +3 (1d6+1) and Bite +3 (1d4)
Skill: +1
Save: 13+
Move: 20’
Madness: 1d8
Special: Immune to slaughtering damage

The team went down the basement and braced the door as best as they could. Thankfully the HCT is slow and clumsy, so they were safe for now. The alien key they found in Ligeia’s coffin opened the blue metal door quite easily, and the team descended into a sub-basement carved from the native stone.

In this new chamber, they beheld the strangest sight yet. A slab of obsidian the size of a large door stood against one wall. A cone of silver light shone through a paper-thin crack in the slab, filling much of the rest of the chamber. Inside the cone of light, caught in an area of slowed-time, Chase the cultist kneeled in a thaumaturgical pentagram, a sacrificial dagger of green glass frozen mid-stroke over the bound and gagged form of Ashley, the girl they were sent here to rescue. Bunny immediately leapt (ha!) into the cone of light to tray and tackle Chase, but she too was frozen in the cone of slowed time.

Careful investigation, some occult rolls, referencing The Hidden Abscess, and the use of some Expertise allowed the others to discover some things:

  • The vector-line image of a robed and wrapped figure would occasionally flicker in and out of view in front of the slab. (This was the not-quite-yet-summoned Walker Between).
  • Inside the cone of light, time wasn’t exactly frozen, but was very, very slow.
  • The obsidian slab marks a Way into some sort of Kelipot.
  • Chase was performing some sort of summoning or opening ritual. This ritual was supposed to involve two sorcerers. By trying to perform it with just one, something went wrong. The Way was only partially open, and its leaking energies warped time inside the cone of light.
  • Using poles or ropes, they can push things around inside the cone of light, but the time dilation means that the things they move around move at hyper-increased velocity in relation to other objects inside the cone.

With clever use of ropes and sticks, the team manages to pull Bunny out. She only breaks a couple of ribs (I only rolled 3 on my 2d6 of unfortunate physics damage). They them lasso Chase’s dagger and pull it into his face, which explodes his head and disrupts the ritual. The Way seals back shut, and Ashley is saved.

Vinnie takes the traumatized Ashley outside to the car while the rest of the team set the house on fire 
(the ultimate goal of any horror game). Ashley is frantic and emotionally scarred, but Vinnie manages to calm her down by getting her sister on the phone and using some minor gas-lighting.

The teams hears police sirens in the distance (Officer Park has been missed), so they all decide to bug out. The house was condemned a long time ago, so the city decides to let the building burn.

The investigation of the Old Penderghast House is closed. Ashley has been saved, relatively safe and sound. The team has about two weeks of downtime. Lucian uses most of this time to study the spells found in The Hidden Abscess. Ashley’s sister Christine (the PCs’ friend who started this whole investigation) makes her way to Seattle, and decides to stay in town while Ashley recovers. Ashley is worried about Kevin, her recently-ex boyfriend who was supposed to be at the Old Penderghast House but never showed up. He’s fallen off the grid, and there’s no trace of him. Vinnie’s “Leading Whispers” ability reveals that Kevin was a newbie member of Chase’s cult. Finding him could give them valuable information about this cult and their activities.

Some critical rolls on research and computers manage to track Kevin’s cell phone to a hotel in Centralia, about an hour south of Seattle. The investigators have their next target. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Old Penderghast House, Part 2 (Silent Legions Session Report)

Our brave, doomed investigators continued exploring the Old Pendergast House in our Silent Legions game. This time around we got our first case of delirium, as well as our first PC death. Now that’s a proper horror game!

The Investigators:
  • Bernadette "Bunny" Kennedy (Tough/Bodyguard)--A former circus strong woman who turned to occult investigation "just like the old gypsy lady said."
  • Veronica Richardson (Socialite/Artist)--She's been having dreams about obsidian mountains under a red sky full of black stars, tentacles, and milky blind eyes.
  • Lucian Stone (Scholar/Programmer)--A hacker who lives and breathes the occult sites of the Deep Web. An occult Alex Jones.
  • Vinne Morg (Investigator/Business Owner)--A pawn broker who had to leave Atlanta after he sold the wrong piece of weird jewelry and attracted unwanted attention from mysterious forces. 

The Highlights:

The PCs find an old black and white TV on a rolly cart. It’s screen flickers with static, even though the cord isn’t plugged in, and the house has no electricity besides. Fiddling with the antennas, the image becomes clear—a super-massive black hole in the heart of interstellar space. A subsonic thrumming grows louder as a crystalline mass appears in the center of the black hole. Vinnie and Veronica’s eyes and ears begin to bleed, and Vinnie shoots the TV.

The noise attract the Logan-Thing. The panicked PCs all hide in the closet and wait for him to shuffle away, anxiously clutching their limited weaponry. It was a high-point in my GM career. 

Bunny finds the missing Ashley’s cellphone in the closet. Looking at her text messages, they discover that the girl just broke up with her weird boyfriend Kevin after he refused to show up for the party in the haunted house. He apparently skipped town and warned Ashley to get away from Amber and Chase. Ashley clearly didn’t take his advice. There’s also glitchy video of the sinister Chase using some incantation to pass through the alien metal door in the basement.

They find the remains of a burned journal in a fireplace. Scraps indicate that Penderghast buried his wife Ligeia somewhere on the property after her death. It also mentions that he and his wife trapped some eldritch creature in a prison Kelipot—some creature that serves The House of Broken Glass.

A skinless woman (Amber?) appears in a mirror. She grabs Vinnie and pulls him half-way through. Behind the mirror, he sees the horrible liquid-silver energy grid that forms the underlying foundation of the illusion we call reality. At the center of it all spins a crystalline mass that radiates contempt and hatred. Vinnie’s friends manage to pull him out of the mirror and shatter it. This ordeal costs him a ton of Madness, and the poor bastard develops an uncontrollable (if understandable) phobia against reflective surfaces.

They find a secret closet in the old study and discover an ancient book, L’abces Chache (The Hidden Abscess), that describes the nature of Kelipah and contains a couple of spells. They also find a blood-stained clay disk, The Talisman of the Stable Threshold, which they can use to counter the impossible geometry of the house.  

All this time, Lucian has been posting photos and questions about the Old Penderghast House and the House of Broken Glass on occult conspiracy message boards. Someone called Anonymous Black has been deleting his posts followed by vague threats. A user on another forum, Occult_Warrior_17, warns them not to mess with “The House of Broken Glass” which the players eventually discover doesn’t refer to this house, but is actually the name of an alien pantheon of dead gods.

Poor dead Veronica.
After dealing with more impossible geometry, the investigators encounter the Logan-Thing again. The monster is unstoppable. Bunny is beaten unconscious and Veronica is killed. (This was mostly due to simple bad luck on the players’ dice rolls. The Logan Thing only has 3 hit dice and his AC was the equivalent of a man in leather armor. All the PCs had weapons; they just could manage to roll anything higher than a 6.)

Lucian and Vinne drag their friends away from Logan, and Lucian uses the Talisman to stabilize the house’s geometry and put some distance between them and the monster. With dead and bloodied friends, they decide to get out of the house and lick their wounds.

After a day in the hospital, Veroinca’s replacement shows up. It’s Abigail Spencer, aka Occult_Warrior_17 from the internet! Abigail (Tough/Reporter) is a You Tube ghost hunter who’s tangled with the House of Broken Glass before when the rest of her ghost-hunting team was killed while filming in an abandoned asylum near Spokane. It’s clear that these people in Seattle need her help.

After resting up, the PCs go to the gun store and get some better weapons. They get a free MAGA hat with their purchase, but no one decides to wear it.

Back at the Old Penderghast House, Bunny climbs the porch to get directly to the attic window. In the attic she finds an old trunk full of Penderghast’s old adventuring gear:  pistol, bullet-proof vest, and MREs from the 1990s. She also finds a painting of Penderghast and Ligeia standing in front of the alien clock. Bunny makes note of the time on the clock face and heads back out the window.

That’s when the cop (Officer Park) drives by and asks what the investigators are doing standing around the abandoned house with a bunch of shotguns. The PCs panic and run into the house. Officer Park fires at them, misses, and follows them inside. They manage to lose him in the impossible geometry, and avoid a Scooby-Doo chase scene.

At the alien clock, they match the five clock hands to the time shown on the painting. A secret door opens in the clock, leading to a small kelipot that serves as (wait for it) the Tomb of Ligeia. It’s a pleasant place with vaulted stone ceilings, a grassy floor, and air that smells like honey. Tiny brass and stained glass insects flitter through the air. Ligeia’s pink marble coffin sits in the center of the chamber. Opening the coffin, they find the well preserved body of Ligeia holding a key made of the same blue alien metal as the door in the basement. Vinnie takes the key, and the brass-and-glass insects begin swarming and stinging. The PCs scamper out of the Kelipot and back to the house as the passageway closes behind them.

They’re back in the house. That’s when they hear a scream and a series of heavy thuds. Officer Park’s head rolls down the stairs into the foyer. The PCs hear the thump-drag of the Logan-Thing’s footsteps, and the session ended.

The game has gotten off to a good start so far. We’re playing again this weekend, and I’m confident the team will wrap up their investigation of the Penderghast Place next session, then move on to following up on all the hooks I’ve scattered through the adventure.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Flumph for Toon [Flumph Friday February]

Toon is a game I was obsessed with in the mid-90s but couldn’t find anyone who wanted to play it with me. I actually got to play it a couple of times a couple of years ago, and had some fun with it. Even as a relatively lite game, it’s perhaps a tad too numbery for wacky cartoon hi-jinx. Still pretty fun, even is there’s diminishing returns on the supplements.

Anyway, here’s the blog mascot statted out for Toon.

(I am rapidly running out of RPGs for this thing...)

"Hey eveyone, it's me Bernie the Flumph!"
Bernie the Flumph
Description: A rubbery yellow jellyfish-like alien with googly eyes on the ends of long, wibbly stalks. He has a voice like Emo Phillips and carries a multitude of dice, pencils, and other sundries tucked up in his tentacles.

Beliefs & Goals: To make sure everyone’s having a chill time while avoiding anything like actual work.

Hit Points: 9

Muscle: 2
Break Down Door: 2
Climb: 2
Fight: 4
Pick Up Heavy Thing: 2
Throw: 3

Zip: 3
Dodge: 7
Drive Vehicle: 3
Fire Gun: 4
Jump: 6
Ride: 3
Run: 6
Swim: 3

Smarts: 4
Hide/Spot Hidden: 6
Identify Dangerous Thing: 4
Read: 5
Resist Fast-Talk: 6
See/Hear/Smell: 4
Set/Disarm Trap: 6
Track/Cover Track: 4

Chutzpah: 5
Fast-Talk:  8
Pass/Detect Shoddy Goods: 8
Sleight of Hand: 5
Sneak: 5

Tentacle mass of many things (5)