Sunday, May 12, 2019

My New Patreon (and thoughts thereon)




I recently took the plunge and started my own Patreon! You can find that page HERE!

The Patreon will focus on creating and posting gameable content, mostly in the form of monsters, spells, magic items, and maps, with some world-building stuff as well. System-wise it will probably be about 50% BX/OSR, 30% Dungeon Crawl Classics, and 20% system-agnostic. At least that’s what I have planned for now. The future will tell how the numbers actually shake out.

I was reluctant to join Patreon for a while, because I’m philosophically against putting the blogosphere behind a paywall, especially with the death of G-Plus. But friends I trust and who have better business and creative senses than me convinced me that it would be good for “my brand” as well as motivating me to write more and different things. I can’t argue with that.

So how to balance these conflicts? Here’s my plan for now. The Patreon is mostly going to be for developing stuff for zines and other publications. The game stuff I publish there will mostly be content that I wouldn’t post on the blog in the first place. It’s the “business” stuff.

The blog here will remain mostly unchanged. It’s where my actual-plays will be. It’s where the world-building stuff my current home game will be. Its where the not-for-publication stuff I’d be posting “for free” anyway will remain. Stuff form the Patreon may wind up tricking onto the blog, too, once an acceptable amount of time has passed.

That’s the plan, anyway!

So if you’re inclined, please float over Patreon and check me out. While you're at it, go ahead and scope out some of my friends, too!


Friday, April 26, 2019

Ashes of Angels Sessions 9 and 10, plus Mid-Campaign Assessment

I’m a bit behind on my session reports, and the last two sessions have been kind of light on plot, so I’m going to try and keep things to bullet points. After that, I’m going to mull over some thoughts on where the campaign is, where it’s going, and how well the system is working for us.

Our Heroes
Belinda Kage: Serpentblood 2, Midwife
Madeline: Specialist 3, Grave-robber
Mortimer: Alice 3, Librarian
Gerrit Liddstadt of Worms: Fighter 2, Soldier
Jacob: Cleric 2, cultist of Balor

NPCs
Ana Fischer: Witchy henchwoman
Ekans and Arbok: Belinda’s doggos
Svetlana: Innkeeper's least-horrible daughter

Session 9
  • The party returns to Kotstadt and prepares to return to Pagan’s Well to dig out the collapsed tunnel.
  • They hire two laborers, the brothers Kolin and Rolf who claim to have “dug the finest latrines from here to Berlin!”
  • J’s new character, Jacob, joins the group. He’s a secret cleric of Balor—and old man in a rough brown robe and an eye patch. He hides his holy symbol in his empty socket. Dreams have lead him to Pagan’s Well.
  • Back in the Well, the party discovers a large bloody handprint on a wall. It wasn’t there before. Madeline feels like there’s something watching them in the dark and mist. The diggers are spooked, but a big pile of coins convinces them to stay.
  • They clear the tunnel and discover a round stone door carved with one-eyed skulls. The door rolls away easily.
  • Beyond the door is a burial chamber. Seven partially-mummified corpses with rusted armor and weapons and shiny gold torcs. One corpse clutches a large and sinister-looking spear.
  • Belinda grabs the spear, and of course the pagan corpses (draugr) rise up and attack.
  • The fight goes very badly. Jacob’s leg is badly injured, and Rolf dies. Kolin's morale breaks and he runs away, disappearing into the misty tunnels of the Well. The party isn’t landing any hits. It’s time to retreat. Jacob flings his lantern, lighting one of the draugr ablaze.
  • The party retreats from the crypt. The round door is harder to close than it is to open, but they manage to seal the tomb once more.
  • Back at Kotstadt, the clearly-injured party faces a lot of questions as to what happened. The diggers' father is very distraught and wants to know what happened to his sons. The party lies, and tells the villagers that they were looking for treasure in a (fictional) cave, when the roof collapsed, crushing the brothers.
  • The villagers (who are, remember, all very stupid) believe the party, but the diggers’ father insists that they go and dig out his son’s body. That’s when Kolin stumbles back into town, raving about monsters, the walking dead, his murdered bother, and the party’s witchcraft.
  • The party explains that Kolin has clearly gone mad with grief from his brothers’ death. Again, the villagers believe them, but there’s still a bunch of unrest. Father Hrothgar, the burly-but-friendly village priest mollifies the situation. “These are troubled times, and misfortune can break a man’s mind. Let’s all go to bed. In the morning we will take our visiting friends and a dozen stout men to go retrieve Rolf's body from this cave and ensure a proper Christian burial.” The rest of the villagers approve of this idea.
  • The party decides to skip town in the middle of the night before the villagers discover their lies. On the way out, they run into the innkeeper’s least-horrible daughter, Svetlana, who is obsessed with Belinda. They agree to take the girl away with them.
  • The party plots a circuitous route back to the Abbey of St. Agnes so they can retrieve the Lucifer mirror.
  • On the road, they come upon the village of Grossbeck, which has seemingly been abandoned.
    There are no people or animals to be seen, the homes are still intact, but most of the furniture and possessions are missing. A large black monastery lurks on the hill above the town, with an ancient cemetery at its base.  Hooded figures can be seen at a distance, entering the monastery doors. (I stole this entire set-piece from The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart.)
  • The party finds an abandoned inn to spend the night in. Around midnight, they hear the monastery bell toll thirteen.
  • In the morning, the party decides to explore the cemetery, hoping to find a passage to the Ghoul Market.
  • Inside an old crypt, they discover a secret passage beneath a statue of St. Drogo (patron saint of the ugly and deformed, true fact.
  • The underground passage splits in two. One passage continues towards the monastery. The other bears the white-ankh mark of the Ghoul Market! The decides to continue towards the monastery for now, hoping the monks there might have knowledge of the Market.
  • They encounter and easily defeat a giant albino spider. Jacob fails to harvest any venom from its fangs.
  • The passage terminates at a secret door that leads to the basement hallways of the monastery.
  • Session ends.


Session 10
  • There are several doorways in the torch-lit hallway. To the left, the hallways slopes downwards and out of sight. To the right are several doors, which they choose to investigate. One leads to a privy with a dead monk at the bottom of the cesspool. Another leads to a laundry room. One leads to stairs going upwards. And another leads to a pantry full of rotten and worm-ridden foodstuff.
  • They go back down the other way. A short flight of stairs leads to an iron-barred cell with casks and chests visible. Two robed and cowled figures hold antique longswords and guard the door.
  • The party lusts for that treasure, so they attack! The faces of the “monks” are revealed to be
    rotten and gray with clay-like flesh and moldy beards, like something out of a Spanish-Italian horror movie!
  • The monsters are tough! One claws Garrit, and his muscles freeze up, paralyzing him. The undead monk continues its onslaught and chews Garrit’s shoulder down to the bone. Belinda’s Shield spell protects Madeline, who puts her pickaxe through the monk’s head. Blades and bullets finally put down the other monk.
  • In the treasure vault, the party finds a chest full of 1000 silver thalers, a gold chalice, a couple vials of holy water, and a glass reliquary that seems to hold the blood of St. Drogo. The party packs up and leaves, declining to explore the rest of the monastery.
  • Spending the night in the abandoned inn again, the party hears someone (or something) lurking outside in the darkness. In the morning they find six sets of sandaled footprints. They decide to leave the abandoned town.
  • The part cuts cross-country to make their way through a small neck of forest before they make it to the Abbey of St. Agnes.
  • Making camp in the forest, they are approached by a group of eight orphans, refugees from a village to the south. Belinda and Ana determine which of the orphans are first-born (for later use). The party will take the children to the Abbey with them, hoping the nuns will take care of them.
  • On the way to the abbey, the party is attacked by a large bear. Garrit is struck down, but is not killed. After a desperate fight, the PCs manage to put the beast down.
  • They arrive at the abbey the next day. The place is on lock-down. Sister Catherine guards the door with a large musket. Garrit is taken to the infirmary.
  • Things haven’t been good in Hegendrof since the PC’s left. Old Man Hagan’s house burnt down, and a demon haunts the city, killing people and livestock. The witchfinders have been called in and are expected in the next few days.
  • The party goes to the shed they rented from the nuns, where they stashed the Lucifer mirror, to consolidate their loot and ask Lucifer some questions. They take the Nihal, the brattiest of the firstborn orphans with them.
  • Belinda casually shanks Nihal and asks Lucifer where they can find a Writ of Protection to let them safely enter the Ghoul Market. Lucifer tells them they can get one from Baron von Winter, representative of Dracula, in the Black Forest. The party has their new travel destination!
  • The party drags Nihal's body to the woods so they can blame his death on the roving demon. They go to report the boy’s abduction to the nuns.
  • The nuns are horrified. Doughty sister Catherine (fighter 1) grabs her musket and insists the PCs help her find the body.
  • Of course, they run into the demon itself while out in the woods. The demon looks like a giant protein crystal atop five scaly legs. It glows with an alien light. Sister Catherine opens fire and the PCs run away. They hear the sounds of combat, but don’t look back.
  • Mortimer the Alice voices his Exasperation, and the PCs find the grown-over door to an old abandoned root cellar from a long-destroyed building. They hide there for several minutes until they are certain the demon is gone.
  • When the PCs return to the abbey, Sister Catherine is there, badly wounded, but alive. She said she was able to drive away the demon with a vial of holy water she always keeps on her. The nuns are grateful that the witch hunters are only a few days away.
  • Party performs charity work around the abbey. Mortimer gets adopted by a three-legged, wall-eyed sheep. Mensch, the insane eunuch from the Pale Lady adventure, decides Madeline is his new best friend. ("Can he hold a sword? Then he's in!")
  • The PCs move Lucifer and the rest of their loot to the hidden root cellar, figuring it will be a more secure location.
  • Session ends.

Treasure from Both Sessions

  • Ancient war spear with a bone shaft wrapped in man-skin and a head of meteoric iron. 
  • 1000sp
  • Gold chalice worth 500sp
  • 3 vials of holy water in silver vials
  • Blood of St, Drogo
  • Miscellaneous mundane goods salvaged from abandoned Grossbeck


Mid-Campaign Assessment
I’ve played in a number of sandbox games, and I’ve greatly enjoyed them. This is the first time I’ve run a pure sandbox game, and honestly, I’m not sure my home group is the right match for the style. They aren’t bored, and everyone seems to have a good time, but the party wanders a lot and leaves a lot of half-finished jobs and fractionally-explored sites.
I think a lot of this comes from the horror setting. We had similar pseudo-problems with the Silent Legions game. My players are smart and genre savvy, with good survival instincts. But there’s a fine line between “playing smart” and “missing all the cool stuff.” The party has fought a lot of humans and animals, but not a lot of monsters (Pale Lady notwithstanding). I put some fun, goopy monsters in the Pagan’s Well and the Black Monastery, but the PCs bugged out before they encountered them.
I have laid down a bunch of plot hooks and breadcrumbs for about six different modules. I’ve been trying to rely on my players’ own curiosity, and trying to avoid the whole quest-giver “hey I got a job for you” thing. I may need to rethink that. No railroads, but maybe some road maps.
Let’s talk systems. This game started as Lamentations of the Flame Princess game with a bunch of house rules. I’ve added even more house rules as the game has progressed, mostly to make the PCs more adaptable and survivable. At this point, it doesn’t really resemble LotFP, but rather a mulligan stew of various B/X based games. From what I’ve seen the DIY/OSR scene, this isn’t unusual.
I like lethal games. I pitched this campaign as a lethal game. But I think some of my players might be getting frustrated. Maybe not so much with the lethality, but with how ineffective they are in combat. I know old-style combat is supposed to be swingy, but that draugr fight in Pagan’s Well took five rounds before anyone scored a hit (the draugr only had AC like leather armor and 2HD). After a point, swingy becomes tedious. I’m already taking on some rules to address this. I’ll post those later.
This all sounds negative, but I’m still really enjoying the game, and my players are still having a good time. I really enjoy playing all the terrible villager NPCs. We’ve just been in kind of a slump the past couple of sessions. If they stick to the plan to go visit Baron von Winter, that gives them a solid goal. He can definitely give them the old “If you want this from me, I need you to do me this favor” thing, which will lend some much-needed structure to the game.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Crovoborge


This guy will show up in my game the next time my players travel to the Ghoul Market

The Crovoborge guards one of the several tunnels that lead to the Ghoul Market. He is a man-sized, but short, with a head like the skull of a crow. He wears black-lacquered scale mail and a plumed helm and carries a halberd that flickers with purple witch-light. The Crovoborge does not talk, but the two scarab beetles that live in his skull speak for him. Tom lives in his left eye socket and has a voice like Eddie Deezen. Danny lives in his right eye socket and has a voice like Clancy Brown. Both carry their own tiny little halberds.
  • AC: 16 (mail); HD: 5 (26hp); Morale: 10; Movement: 120’, AL: N
  • Flickering Halberd: +5 (1d10 damage, plus take 1d6 each round until a save vs. magic is made. Wound drips small purple snails.)
  • Tom the beetle can see invisible creatures.
  • Danny the beetle can cast Magic Missile (as a 3rd level MU), 3 times a day.
The Crovoborge demands 25 thalers from any person who wishes to pass by his gate. He collects these coins in a battered tin pot and sends half of them every month to his mistress in Hamburg.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Troika Backgrounds (Hobomancer, Sneaky Snake, Moleman, Prodigal Vampire)

Daniel Sell's Troika! is really something special. I love the crazy, loosely-detailed setting that mish-mashes all sorts of psychedelic science-fantasy world-hopping weirdness. The whole thing encourages you to create your own new backgrounds for characters. So that's what I did!

The Hobomancer and Sneaky Snake come from the (Ennie Award-winning!) Hobomancer RPG and Hobomancer Companion that I helped write for Hex Games. I've written about Molemen on this blog several times, but they're inspired (shamelessly lifted) from John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise. And as for the Prodigal Vampire... well, I just like vampires.


Hobomancer
The Songlines span the entirety of the multiverse. The Hobomancers travel along this network of Creation energy, often on magical trains. Many of these trains find their way to Troika. As a hobo, you have forsaken your old name and taken up a life of travel and freedom. As a Hobomancer, you have been initiated into fraternity of wandering mystics and shamans, dedicated to protecting The Song.

Possessions
  • Bindle (+2 carrying capacity, damage as a staff).
  • Banjo, fiddle, or harmonica.
  • Bottle of hooch, cheap but potent.
Advanced Skills
  • 3 Secret Signs: Hobomancer
  • 2 Panhandling
  • 3 Train Hopping
  • 1 Folk Music
  • 2 Trainwhispering (Lets you communicate with trains of all sorts)
  • 1 Bindle Fighting
  • 2 Second Sight
  • 1 Spell: Mulligan Stew
  • 1 Spell: It’s Right Here in My Bindle!
  • 1 Spell: Random
Special
When rolling into town, you can find temporary employment if you make a successful Luck roll.

New Spells
Mulligan Stew (2)
By mixing together a bunch of normally inedible items (shoestrings, empty cans, a rock, whatever you can find) into a pot of boiling water, you can create a tasty and nutritious stew. If successfully cast, the spell creates a number of provisions equal to your roll. The stew must be eaten within an hour or it turns into inedible slop.

It’s Right Here in my Bindle! (1)
Name a mundane, non-food, non-weapon item able to be held in one hand and worth less than a half a day’s wages. Make your spellcasting roll, and if you succeed, it’s right there in your bindle.


Sneaky Snake
Your ancestors ruled over vast, interdimensional empires, commanding mighty golden armies of armored dinosaurs to trample fledgling human tribes. But your kingdoms fell into decadence and complacency. Loinclothed, sword-swinging human heroes toppled your onyx pyramids, shattered your temples, and trod your high-priests into the ground. Ten-thousand years later, the descendants of the fallen Serpent Kings still lurk in the shadows, practicing the arts of deception and planning for the return of the Empire. The Sneaky Snakes are almost ready to rise up again, and have been for several dozen centuries.

Possessions
  • Fancy robes.
  • Disguise kit.
  • Ornate, wavy-bladed dagger.
  • Fangs, with atrophied venom glands (damage as modest beast).
Advanced Skills
  • 3 Disguise
  • 3 Parseltongue (Lets you speak to snakes and other reptiles)
  • 1 Stealth
  • 2 Poisons
  • 2 Spell: Illusion
  • 1 Spell: Assassin’s Dagger
  • 1 Spell: Random
  • 1 Spell: Random


Moleman
You are a native of subterranean realms. You have large teeth, tiny black eyes, and hairless pink skin covered with a thin layer of luminescent mucus. Despite your hideous appearance, you come from a sophisticated culture that values industry and learnedness. Your ideas of natural rights and representative democracy are alien to most other cultures.

Possessions
  • Powdered wig.
  • Frock coat.
  • Stack of pamphlets and handbills.
  • Fencing saber (damage as sword).
Advanced Skills
  • 3 Rhetoric
  • 2 Natural Philosophy
  • 2 Political Theory
  • 2 Comparative Religion
  • 2 Mathmology
  • 3 Spelunking
  • 2 Sword fighting
Special
Once per day, you can produce a wad of luminescent mucus that sheds light like a lantern. This light lasts a number of hours equal to your skill and can be stuck to any solid surface.


Prodigal Vampire
When the Sunshine Collective conquered the world of Chornabos, the vampire nobles that ruled the Black Cities were forced to flee in exile. Many of these displaced vampires settled in Troika. Now you’re trying to maintain your dignity and rebuild the network of influence and prestige that you once enjoyed.

Possessions
  • Fine clothing, several decades out of fashion.
  • Sword-umbrella.
  • Fancy jewelry, worth 2d6x10 silver pence.
  • Bat wings (fly as fast as a man can run).
  • Retractable fangs (damage as modest beast).
Advanced Skills
  • 3 Etiquette
  • 2 Bite Fighting
  • 2 Flight
  • 1 Stealth
  • 1 Spell: Amity
  • 1 Spell: Fear
  • 1 Spell: Befuddle
Special
You cannot eat normal provisions. When you make a successful bite attack, you can choose to immediately slurp up some of your target’s blood (assuming they have blood). This doesn’t cause any extra damage, but you gain the benefits of consuming a provision (regain 1d6 Stamina). You can only feed like this three times per day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

You automatically fail any Luck rolls while you are exposed to direct sunlight. While in the smoky city of Troika, beneath the Hump-Backed Sky, this is rarely a problem, but keep your umbrella handy.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Burn the Witch-Hunter! [Ashes of Angels, Session 8]


This was a relatively short session that mostly revolved around trying to cure Mortimer’s illness. He was only one failed saving throw away from death, and the players were getting pretty frantic. Julius’ player wasn’t with us this session, so we didn’t get to introduce his new character.

Our Heroes
  • Belinda Kage: Serpentblood 1, Midwife
  • Madeline: Specialist 3, Grave-robber
  • Mortimer: Alice 3, Librarian
  • Gerrit Liddstadt of Worms: Fighter 1, Soldier
NPCs
  • Ana Fischer: Witchy henchwoman
  • Ekans and Arbok: Belinda’s doggos

After returning from Pagan’s Well, the party wakes up the next morning in their rooms at the Happy Woodsman. Madeline, Mortimer—the three characters who has splashed around in the filthy black water at the bottom of the warchief’s well—were all required to make posion saves. Only Mortimer failed. The unfortunate librarian woke up oozing black tarry discharge from every pore and orifice, plastering his bedsheets (also, CON and CHA damage).  

Belinda and Gerrit tried to convince Svetlana (the innkeeper’s least-horrible daughter, who is also obsessed with Belinda) to keep their friend’s illness a secret. But villagers are going to gossip, and soon the entire town new that one of the visiting adventurers was sick. Rumors of plague begin to spread. Kerney the innkeeper considers tossing the party out of the inn but is mollified when the party gives him a good pile of silver, more than enough to buy out all the rooms in the inn and pay for new linnens to boot.

The rest of the villagers are fairly easy to talk down, because, again, they are all very stupid.

Gerrit and Belinda spend the rest of the day hunting for herbs in the woods (the parts they didn’t burn down) trying to mix a remedy for Mortimer and manage to put together a poultice that will give him a bonus to his next saving throw. (He needs to succeed at two saves in order to throw off the illness.)
Mortimer makes his save, and his condition doesn’t progress, although it doesn’t get any better. The party’s feeling pretty confident, and the villagers are less nervous.

Unfortunately, the next morning Mortimer fails his save (even with the bonus) and gets worse again. Mortimer is down to 3 CON and 2 CHA at this point, and things are getting dire. The party questions everyone they can in the village, trying to get information about any kind of healer folks might know.
On my list of rumors, I have an entry that there’s a folk healer in the marshes near Keil whose touch can cure the sick, so I decide to feed that to the players. Keil is only 8 hours south of Kodstadt, so the party (including Mortimer) decide to head to Keil with all due speed. Ana, still upset about losing her arm, stays behind. The witch tells Belinda that she’s realized that the Transylvanian Hunger spell can restore her arm, but it would probably require her to kill someone. Belinda tells her to behave while they are gone.

The ride cross-country to Keil is uneventful. About an hour outside of Kiel, they run into a man with a mule cart and pet bobcat. The man introduces himself as Simeon, a practitioner of the thaumaturgical arts on his way to visit and professional associate of his. He was ready to stop for the night in Kiel, but witch hunters are there right now, getting ready to string up some root-worker and a few other non-desirables. He decided it was safer to skip town while the getting was good.

The party rolls double-sixes on their reaction roll and convince the wizard to come with them. They all hate witch hunters and ask Simeon to come help run them out of town and save the accused. Simeon happily agrees, eager to show those self-righteous witch-burners what’s what.

The party stashes their horses and Simeon's wagon in an abandoned barn and creep towards the village. Belinda and Simeon keep their distance, while Mortimer and Madeline stealth towards the town square, where there seems to be something important going on. Simeon casts invisibility on Gerrit, and he slips into the village square as well.

A large crowd of filthy, sick, and hungry-looking villagers gathers around a large cross erected in the center of the village square. A large gallows platform, obviously of fresh construction, is art one end of the square. Four people stand upon it with nooses around their necks: Brother Timothy (the folk healer), Frau Shulz (the midwife), Sandra (a teenage girl), and Fletcher (the poison maker). Before them all, walking on a long roll of cloth to keep the mud off her boots, is Isadole Spence, the witch hunter. She is a severe-looking woman with a long skirt, high boots, a big hat, and a whip and pistol on her hips. She’s accompanied by four well-armed goons.

Isadole Spence, Witch Hunter (Specialist 5)
AC: 14 (Leather); HP:20; Morale: 10
Stealth 3, Sneak Attack 3, Search 5
Sword +2 (1d8)
Whip +2 (1d3, save or become entangled)
Pistol +2 (1d8)

Goons
AC: 13, HD: 1; Morale: 8
Sword +1 (1d8)
Musket +1 (1d8)

Isadole paces back and forth in front of the gallows, reading off the list of the condemned's crimes, quoting the gorier parts of scripture, and generally doing the whole witch-hunter thing. Madeline and Mortimer position themselves behind cover with their guns and crossbows, while Gerrit makes his way to the witch-hunter’s nearby wagon and finds her keg of gunpowder. Gerrit constructs a makeshift fuse and chucks the burning keg into the center of the crowd. It explodes, killing several villagers and causing the big cross to fall over, crushing a small child. The crowd panics!

Mortimer and Madeline open fire on the goons while the goons unload their muskets on Gerrit, thankfully missing. Simeon casts Summon and calls up a fungus demon. Sadly, he fails his control check, and the demon turns on him. (This spell will work properly at some point, I’m sure. As it is, Belinda has convinced herself to never use it.) Belinda cast Charm Person on Isadole the witch-hunter, who fails her save. Gerrit shoots dead on of the goons on the gallows.

With the guard dead, Madeline makes her way to the gallows platform and starts to free the condemned. Garrit engages one the goons, sword-vs-sword, while Mortimer’s crossbow bolt takes out another goon. Belinda makes her way through the panicked crowd calling for “help” until Isadole can see her. The charmed witch-hunter moves to her side. “Don’t worry, my dear, I won’t let any of these filthy peasants touch you!” Isadole says as she uses her whip to drive away the rabble.

Simeon's pet bobcat leaps into the fray to protect his master from the fungus demon. The large cat’s body ripple like water, and suddenly it becomes wolf-sized brain demon! Simeon's bobcat was a bound and shapeshifted demon this entire time! It’s a tense demon-on-demon fight, but Simeon and his familiar come out on top.

Garrit finished off the last goon while Madeline frees Brother Timothy the healer. The charmed Isadole is so distracted that she doesn’t notice Belinda placing her crossbow under the witch-hunter’s chin and pulling the trigger. The bolt shoots clean through her head, pinning her cool hat to a tree limb above.

The witch-hunters are defeated, and the villagers have scattered. The party leads the folk-healer out of town while Garrit loots the hunters’ wagon.

The grateful healer, a portly old man with a white smock and broad straw hat, introduces himself as Brother Timothy. He lives in a small cottage in the swamp, and his family has been providing medicines and physick services to Keil for generations. But sickness and famine hit the village recently, and as soon as the witch-hunters came to town, the villagers betrayed him, along with the midwife, some poor innocent girl, and the local poisoner. “Well, they might have been right about him. Still, how’s that for gratitude?”

Brother Timothy is more than happy to heal poor sick Mortimer. He rubs some moss on his chest and plants a few leeches on his face while chanting the Lord’s Prayer, and just like magic, Mortimer’s illness is cured! They ask Brother Timothy is he’d like to return with them to Kotstadt. Since the villagers betrayed him and Isadole and her goons burnt down his house, the folk healer thinks that finding a new home isn’t such a bad idea. The party says their goodbyes to Simeon and his familiar, and make their way back to Kotstadt with Brother Timothy and a chest-load of loot from the witch-hunters’ wagon.

When they get back to Kotsadt, Ana has a fresh new arm hidden under her cloak, and Gorst the huntsman hasn't been seen for a while. 

Treasure Gained
  • Gold crucifix (200sp)
  • 2 vials of holy water
  • 500sp in gold coins
  • Isadole Spence’s journal

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Into the Pagan's Well [LotFP: Ashes of Angels session 7]


I have been super busy with the (successful!) Draugr & Draculas Kickstarter and other projects. We’ve actually had two sessions of Ashes of Angels since my last actual play report. I’m going try and put them out pretty quickly, one after the other.

In this session, the party descended into the Pagan’s Well, which just so happens to be the mini-dungeon to be included in Draugr & Draculas. So, don’t tell me I never playtest anything.

Our Heroes
  • Belinda Kage: Serpentblood 1, Midwife
  • Madeline: Specialist 3, Grave-robber
  • Mortimer: Alice 3, Librarian
  • Julius Cervantes: Fighter 2, Ex-witch-hunter (dead)
  • Gerrit Liddstadt of Worms: Fighter 1, Soldier


NPCS
  • Ana Fischer: Friendly witch
  • Ekans and Arbok: Belinda’s doggos


After tearing the grate out of the well in the previous session, the party erects their pavilion tent over the well to protect it from the weather and hide their activity from prying eyes. Ana stays topside while the party climbs down on secure ropes.

The bottom of the well has about a foot of water littered with thousands of copper coins. A statue of a raven, stag, and wolf rest against the walls. A bricked-up doorway stands between the stag and raven. Madeline leads the efforts to carefully remove the bricks and reveal the foggy passage beyond.

The hidden chambers beneath the well are cold and foggy, limiting vision to less than 20 feet, even with lanterns. Julius determines that the construction predates the Romans. The first tunnel ends in a T-intersection. The left-hand passage doesn’t go very far before it comes to a collapsed section. It will take several hours to safely clear away the rubble before they can pass. They decide to save that for later.

The right-hand path leads to an open chamber with a large trough of blood running to one of the walls, ten feet long by five feet wide. A carved image of one-eyed Balor (an evil god of old) leers above the blood trough. The blood seems distressingly fresh. Probing with the trusty 10-foot pole determines that the trough is about eight feet deep. There seems to be a 4’x4’ opening in the wall underneath the blood. No one seems eager to take a dip in the blood yet to check it out.

There’s another passage exiting out of this chamber, but the party decides to go topside and double check on things before continuing.

When they get back topside, Ana seems very nervous as she scans the treeline with her crossbow. “There’s someone out there…” she says.

Suddenly, there’s a “thump” on the top of the tent, and the canvas begins to burn. Someone’s thrown a flaming torch onto it! The party quickly exits as the expensive new tent goes up in flames. Immediately, they are assaulted by crossbow bolts coming from some unseen assailant in the trees. They immediately assume it is the weird, one-eyed, burn-scarred woodsman they met last session.

The party desperately scans the underbrush, trying to spot the sniper. Ana casts Summon and conjures a crystalline demon that she utterly fails to control. It turns to attack her and slices of her arm in one hit!

Madeline finally spots the shooter in the trees and calls out his position. Half the party opens fire on the shadowy form, while the rest try to get the demon away from Ana. Garrit hits the sniper with a solid arrow strike, and the assailant disappears back into the woods. The combined efforts of the party manage to take down the crystal demon while Belinda stabilizes Ana.

Garrit is not at all happy with the creepy trigger-happy woodsman, so he decides to burn down the forest. With the tactical application of a few burning oil flasks, the patch of light woods quickly goes up in flame. Alfred Pennyworth quotes are made.

The party returns to the village of Kotstadt and its stupid, stupid people. The Kotstadters wonder what started the forest fire.
“Do you guys know about that creepy guy that lives in the woods?” the party asks.
“You mean Madman Murphy?” the villagers reply. The party is not happy that no one warned them about this guy.
“Yeah, he did it. He worships Balor and set the forest on fire to appease his evil god. Also he cut off our friend’s arm.”
“That bastard!”
“Yeah,” says Garrit, “We should form a posse to go get him!”
None of the villagers are eager to do this, except fierce Father Hrothgar, the local priest.

Hrothgar grabs his old blunderbuss and he heads out with Garrit and Julius to find Madman Murphy, ideally in a part of the forest that isn’t on fire yet. A few hours and a couple of successful checks later, and the trio come upon Murphy’s shabby, secluded lean-to. Random fresh blood splatters indicate that the hermit is around.

Julius steps into a bear trap, shouting in pain and giving away their approach. Murphy fires upon them with his crossbow again. Father Hrothgar fires his blunderbuss, which misfires and explodes in his face, knocking him over, but doing no great damage. Garrit knocks out the supports to the lean-to, trapping Murphy under the old hides. Within moments, the trapped lump of Murphy is peppered with arrows. The evil hermit is dead. Looking trough Murphy’s belongings for treasure, they find a crude wooden idol of Balor, the rune-carved skull of Murphy’s father, and a bowl of hallucinogenic mushrooms, which they bring back for Belinda.

This is Ana. I don't blame him.
Everyone returns to the village for some much-deserved rest. Before going to bed, Julius, the former witch-hunter, goes to Ana to yell at her about summoning demons. Ana doesn’t feel like dealing with him and casts Charm Person upon him. Julius’s player makes the choice to play it as though he’s madly in love with the witch now. Fair enough. Ana tells him to leave and go to bed.
“Can I go to your bed?” he asks.
Ana considers for a moment. “Yeah alright,” she finally says, figuring that sex will certainly help seal the charm spell. She’s had a bad day, anyway, what with losing an arm and all.

The next day is New Year’s Day, and the party spends the day celebrating with the townsfolk. We roll on the carousing tables. Garrit makes friends with a travelling smuggler and later gets beat up after losing at cards. Madeline gets mugged. Belinda barely avoids marriage to one of the innkeeper’s horrible daughters. Mortimer and Julius manage to avoid complications.

The next morning, the PCs head back to the well, leaving Ana behind to rest and heal. The forest is now a smoldering wreck, but the well seems intact. They climb back down and make their way through the foggy passages. They still decline to explore the blood trough and make their way to the next chamber.

This room has a large, circular stone cap on the floor, like a big manhole cover, with an iron wheel in the middle of it. Belinda, Garrit, and Julius step onto the cap and turn the wheel in hopes of opening it (the wheel is very rusty and takes a combined STR of 20 to turn it).

The wheel does, in fact, open the cap, which flips 90 degrees and dumps all three of them into the 100-foot shaft beneath. Belinda and Mortimer, safely away from the capstone, watch with bemused horror. Belinda and Garrit make their saves manage to make their saves and catch themselves on the edge of the shaft. Julius isn’t so lucky. The plummets for 50 feet, gets lacerated by the crisscross of rusty razor-wire strung across the middle of the shaft, then falls the final 50 feet to crumple dead at the bottom of the shaft.

It was Julius’ player’s birthday, by the way.

Madline climbs down the shaft to retrieve her companion’s body and (more importantly!) to examine the stone coffin at the bottom of the shaft. She carefully removes enough razorwire for people to rappel down the shaft, then gets to examining the coffin.

The coffin sits in several inches of filthy black water but doesn’t seem to be trapped. She calls down Garrit and Mortimer while Belinda stands guard at the top. The three splash through the nasty water (save vs poison!) and bust open the casket. Inside is the decaying body of an ancient warchief. He wears gold braces etched with wolves, and his golden burial mask sports a large ruby! This is the biggest treasure haul the party has found  so far, which means it’s time to bug out and return to the village for now.

Graveyard
Julius Cervantes (Fighter 2)
Matthew, now an insane three-legged tree frog (Outlander 1)
Tranquilo (Fighter 1)
Hector (Alice 1)

Treasure this Session
Two gold bracers carved with wolves (1000sp each)
Gold burial mask with a single ruby eye (1000sp) 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Champion/Punchfighter [LotFP Class]


My kid (who plays Madeline the grave robber in our LotFP game) is already thinking about their next character in the not unlikely event of Madeline’s demise. They wanted to know if there was any kind of class that specializes in unarmed combat. Of course, the easy solution would be to just make a Fighter and use a lot of unarmed attacks and the wrestling moves. But that’s kind of boring.

There are a number of B/X monk classes to be found around the internet, but neither of us wanted to go the kung-fu monk route. Instead we just wanted a big strong person that punched a lot. Like a mixture of luchadore, old-timey boxer, and circus strong man.

So, as a good father and GM, I put together the CHAMPION—a little bit Charles Atlas, a little bit El Santo, a little bit Jojo Jostar. Hopefully it’s a lot of fun. I haven’t done any playtesting with this, nor have I done any XP mathematics (I eyeballed it and thought Dwarf XP looked about right). Let me know what you think!


Champion (Punchfighter)
“I won’t use a sword to fight Grendel, since that wouldn’t be fair to the monster.”
--Beowulf, probably

Mustache optional, but recommended.
Champions (also known as brawlers, punchfighters, or kickpunchers) are warriors who have dedicated themselves to perfecting their bodies and honing their minds until they are perfect killing machines. As a champion, you abstain from using weapons or armor, preferring to rely on your own skills and training to prove your mettle against all comers. For you, combat is its own reward, and you are constantly on the lookout for bigger challenges and greater opponents. You have mastered many fighting techniques, called stances, that let you fight in a variety of ways using your hands, feet, head, or whatever happens to be lying around. Some of these fighting techniques even border on the supernatural.

XP Progression: as dwarf
Saving Throws: as fighter
Hit Die: as fighter
Attacks: When fighting unarmed, use the fighter’s Attack Bonus for your level. Otherwise, your Attack Bonus is +1.
Fighter Combat Options: When fighting unarmed, you have access to pressing attack, defensive fighting, and the better parry option.

Abilities
Punches as strong as kicks: Your unarmed attacks deal 1d6 damage. You are never considered unarmed.

Skin Conditioning: When not wearing armor, add your CON modifier to your AC along with DEX.

Clean Living: The power of a champion requires a strict mental and physical discipline. You must choose one activity that you either must do every day, or you must never do. Maybe you must perform an hour of calisthenics every morning or drink a gallon of whole milk with breakfast. Maybe you abstain from alcohol or sexual congress.

If you break this regimen, you gain a dot of encumbrance, as the violation literally weighs upon you. You gain another dot every time you brake your taboo. You lose one dot of this extra encumbrance for every day where you spend at least 8 hours doing proper exercises, ablations, and reconditioning.

Your taboo should be a mild inconvenience but needn’t be too onerous. It’s intended to be a fun role-playing tag more than a serious power check. It shouldn’t be more troublesome than a magic user needing to memorize spells each day. As always, the GM has final approval over any taboo.

Stances
Stances are combinations of combat techniques and mental states that allow a champion to modify they way they fight opponents. Stances allow you to punch harder, fight multiple opponents, or even hit ghosts.

As first-level champion, you know the Basic Stance, plus one more stance of your choice. At second level, and every even level after that, you can add one more stance of your choice to your repertoire.
At start of combat, before initiative is rolled, you should announce which stance you are using. This defaults to the Basic Stance, if you can’t make a choice.

You can only use one stance at a time. Changing a stance happens at the movement phase of the round and replaces your movement. If you want to describe your body flaring with visible muscle energy as you shout out the name of your stance, I wouldn’t blame you.

You can maintain a stance outside of combat, but it’s like walking around with an unsheathed sword; you’re clearly ready to start a fight. So, not a real problem in a dungeon, but a bit of a faux pas when meeting the magistrate.

Maintaining stances requires freedom of movement. You cannot use any stance but the Basic Stance if you are more than lightly encumbered.


Basic Stance
  • No adjustments.

Bat Stance
  • You cannot see in the dark, but you can detect and fight opponents in within range of your combat movement without penalty while blind or in the dark or against invisible opponents.

Break Stance

  • Your unarmed attacks can harm golems and constructs, despite damage immunities. 
  • Your unarmed attacks inflict double damage (2d6) against inanimate objects. 


Buddy Stance
  • You have +2 to hit an opponent that an ally is also attacking in melee. One such ally gains +2 to their AC for the round.

Flash Stance
  • Add another 20’ to your combat movement rate (40’ for an unencumbered human becomes 60’) as long as you can make an unarmed attack against an opponent after moving.
  • Unlike other stances, switching to this stance does not replace your movement.

Flurry Stance
  • Can make two attacks per round. Add all your modifiers to your Attack Bonus and divide the total as evenly as possible.
  • Example: Dirkland (3rd level champion) has an Attack Bonus of +4, is making a pressing attack (+2), and the GM gave him a miscellaneous +1 bonus for having the higher ground. His total Attack Bonus is +7. If he makes two attacks, one will be at +4, while the other will be at +3. Dirkland can choose which opponent gets which.

Ghost Stance
  • Your unarmed damage drops to 1d4, but your unarmed attacks now count as magical for the purpose of overcoming weapon immunities.

Handsome Stance
  • Add your CHA modifier to you AC along with your CON and DEX modifiers.

Hornet Stance
  • Your unarmed melee Attack Bonus drops to +1
  • You can make ranged attacks with thrown small weapons (1d4 damage) with the fighter Attack Bonus.
  • These thrown weapons have range modifiers like a short bow.
  • You can make two ranged attacks per round. Add all your modifiers to your Attack Bonus and divide the total as evenly as possible. (see Flurry Stance above)

Lion Stance
  • Mortal opponents engaged with you take a penalty to their Morale equal to your STR modifier.
  • This has no effect on opponents with a 12 morale.

Nice Guy Stance
  • You can use improvised weapons to make melee attacks with the fighter’s attack bonus.
  • An improvised weapon must be a mundane item, able to be held in one or two hands, that is not designed to be a weapon. (So, a mop or beer mug is fine, but a knife or magic staff is not.)
  • An improvised weapon inflicts 1d8 damage and breaks on a roll of 1 or 8.


River Stance
  • You can make unarmed attacks using your DEX modifier instead of STR.


Turtle Stance
  • You no longer add your CON modifier to your AC, but your base AC starts at 14 (as leather armor).

Unbreakable Stance
  • Add your CON modifier to all Saving Throws.

Wonder Stance
  • You can knock bullets and arrows out of the air and gain +2 AC against all ranged attacks.
PUNCHFIGHTER!