Saturday, December 29, 2018

What's for Sale at the Ghoul Market?

Vacant Ritual Assembly is an OSR zine put out by Clint Krause and Red Moon Medicine Show. Issue #1 came out in 2014, and (among other things) describes the Ghoul Market. The Ghoul Market is an underground bazzar when denizens of the underworld ply their wares. 

As described in the zine: Beneath a defiled chapel, the scavengers of the dead emerge from their tunnels to barter with the living and the damned. Inhuman travelers peruse black-shrouded stalls and dine on artisanal cadavers.

I love the Ghoul Market, and I'm very excited that my players will be visiting it soon. According to the article, at any time 1d10 magic items can be found for sale at the Ghoul Market (I will drop that to 1d6). This gave me the flmsy excuse to come up with a bunch of interesting magic items of low-to-middle power that I canuse to seperate the PCs from their money. 

Below is my list of random magic items. Many of them are one-use, so they shouldn't throw off the pwer balance too much. I just kind of eye-balled the prices based on magic item construction costs in the LotFP book. I don't claim that the prices are mathematically perfect. The list includes 16 new magic items, along with a boring old healing potion, plus random scrolls, wands, and spellbooks. 

Most of these items are sold by Handsome Gamal, a strangely charismatic, partially mummified ghoul who wears dusty old silks and tarnished gold jewelry. He will absolutely not warn his customers about the negative aspects of any of his goods.

Use and enjoy!

Random Magic Items from the Ghoul Market

1) Dead Man’s Tobacco
  • Sticky, foul-smelling, black tobacco in a skin pouch.
  • Blow smoke into corpse’s mouth to speak with dead.
  • Ask 3 questions. Corpse can be dead for any amount of time, but mouth, lips, and tongue must be intact.
  • Price: 1000sp per dose

2) Bottled Undead Faerie
  • Emaciated gray faerie with piranha teeth in a smoky glass bottle.
  • Feed blood to make faerie glow with light only donor can see, illuminating like a lantern. 1 turn per hp of blood.
  • One use only, then the faire turns to ash.
  • Price: 1000sp

3) Hand of Glory
  • Mummified left hand of a hanged man. Dipped in human tallow and wicks placed in each finger to make a macabre handle.
  • Casts sleep on everyone in a house. Lasts 1 turn per finger
  • Price: 7000sp

4) Zombie Wine
  • Black bottle of think, glowing green liquor.
  • Feed to a corpse to create 2HD zombie. Loyal to the person who fed it the wine, for now. (Loyalty starts at 12. Loyalty is reduced by 1 each night. Test loyalty every midnight.)
  • Price: 1000sp

5) Burglar Worms
  • 1d6 Finger-sized green maggots kept in a tin box of rotten soil.
  • Automatically opens any key-based lock in 1d10 rounds, then turns into fat disgusting (but harmless) fly.
  • Price: 500sp per worm.

6) Basilisk Powder
  • One dose of course gray powder in a small silk pouch.  
  • Mix with wine and drink. Save or turn to stone until dawn. The drinker can voluntarily fail the save.
  • Price: 1000sp

7) Black Cherub Feather
  • Large black feather with a razor-sharp quill.
  • Jab it into your flesh to heal all damage, poison, or disease, but every prepubescent creature in a 1d6 mile radius suffers the damage and maladies you just cured.
  • Price: 2000sp

8) Mummy Dust
  • Fine, greasy powder like gray talc in a pocket-sized clay sarcophagus.
  • Mix with water and drink. You become immune to normal weapons for 1d4 turns.
  • You take triple damage from fire.
  • You cannot benefit from cleric spells, and can be turned/destroyed as undead.
  • You take 1d6 CON damage per turn of duration after effect ends (save vs posion for half).
  • Price:  2000sp

9) Love Potion
  • Blood-red syrup that smells of opium and rancid meat in a clay vessel with two spouts.  
  • Someone drinks half, someone else drinks the other half. If both fail their saves vs. poison, the two fall madly in love until the spring equinox.
  • Price: 500sp

10) Satyr Juice
  • Milky, pearlescent potion in an obscene brass flask.
  • The next time the drinker has sex, they will become pregnant regardless of sex, health, or biology.
  • Price: 500sp

11) Memory Mirror
  • Small silver hand mirror decorated with Greek goddesses.
  • Reflects the image of the last person to look into it.
  • Cost: 3000sp

12) Inquisitor Cobra
  • Three-foot long cobra with a grey-and black hide and a yellow cross on its hood.
  • Whisper a question to the cobra and point to another person. The cobra will ask that person the question. If they answer truthfully, the cobra bites them. (+4 to hit, 4d6 CON damage. Save vs poison for half.)
  • After each question, roll 1d6. On a 1, cobra says “My work here is done!” and dies.
  • Price: 2000sp

13) Brass Goat Statue
  • Fist-sized sculpture of a shaggy goat with large horns and a curious expression on its face.
  • Weights 15lbs, but somehow doesn’t take up an encumbrance slot.
  • Through subtle space warpage, allows the character to carry 5 more items before gaining their first encumbrance point (using LotFP encumbrance rules).
  • Once per day (at 1d24 o’clock), 1-in-6 chance of “eating” a random item the PC is carrying.
  • This chance grows by 1 per day until the goat eats something, then resets to 1-in-6.
  • Price: 2000sp

14) Ghost Shroud
  • Old and dusty funeral shroud of stained gray linen.
  • Wrap it around yourself and become ethereal, invisible, silent, and can fly for 1d6 turns.
  • At the end of the duration, roll 2d6+CHA modifier.
    • 10+: You return to normal, and assuming you weren’t in flight or inside a solid object, you’re fine.
    • 7-9: You return to normal, as above, but you’ve lost something in the ethereal plane.
    • 6 or less: You are forever lost in the ethereal, and something returns to the physical world in your place.
  • Price: 6000sp

15) Wolf Heart Woad
  • Thick purple paste in a small bone jar.
  • Spend 1 round smearing on your face and eyes.
  • At the start of the next round, before initiative is rolled, you turn into a wolfman.
  • This transformation destroys your clothes and armor, and you drop the rest of your gear.
  • While transformed you act on your own initiative roll. You have an AC of 14 (+DEX modifier). You are immune to fear and charm effects.
  • You take double damage from silver weapons, and are burned by holy water (1d6 damage).
  • Your movement speed is increased by 50% (180’ in LotFP).
  • You have +2 to attack, and can make two claw attacks for 1d6 damage each.
  • Every round you must attack the nearest living target, friend or foe, or move towards the nearest target.
  • You can suppress this bloodlust for 1 round with a successful save vs magic (-2 at night, -4 if the moon is full).
  • The transformation ends after 1d4 turns, or you’ve been unable to attack someone (successful or not) for 6 rounds.
  • Price: 2000sp

16) Nice and  Pleasant Tea Kettle
  • A small tin tea kettle painted with simple blue and yellow flowers.
  • The kettle can make up to 4 cups of tea at a time, in the usual fashion.
  • Once per day, you can brew an usually pleasant batch of tea. A wounded person drinking a cup of this unusually pleasant tea heals 1 hp.
  • A person can only benefit from this unusually pleasant tea once per day, and the tea loses potency if it grows cold.
  • You must provide your own water, heat, and tea leaves.
  • This is one of the rare magic items with no horrible side effects.
  • Price: 2000sp

17) Medical Potion 
  • Bitter brew, thick and black, in a leather flask
  • Drink to heal 1d6+1 damage.
  • Price: 300sp each, 1d3 flasks available

18) Wand
  • Random spell: level 1-3; 4d6 charges
  • Price: spell level x charges x 600sp

19) Spell Scroll
  • Roll 1d6: 1-4 wizard spell, 5-6 cleric scroll.
  • Random spell and level.
  • Price: 500sp per spell level

20) Spell Book
  • Contains 1d6 random spells of random levels
  • Price:  total spell levels x 1000sp

Monday, December 24, 2018

Ashes of Angels: Session 1 (LotFP campaign)

Last weekend I ran the first session of our new Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign, prenteously called “Ashes of Angels.” This session served as a short session 0 where we went through character creation, discussed setting info and themes, and acclimatized our new player to the group. Character creation went fairly quickly, with shopping taking up most of the time. It went a bit quicker at the end of the session, when a couple of players rolled up new characters.

I had my players roll 3d6 straight down the line for the stats, and let them swap two scores. If they still didn’t like those numbers, I allowed them to take those numbers and make a loyal 0-level retainer for their PC and use a pre-determined array of numbers to plug in where they wanted (13, 12, 10, 9, 9, 6). I mockingly called this this “Premade Array for Baby Cowards.” I was delighted that all my players decided to play their rolls where they lay (with the optional swap). No henchmen for this group yet!

Here’s the initial party:
  • Madeline: Specialist and grave robber (played by Erik)
  • Belinda Kage: Serpentblood and midwife (played by IvyLynn)
  • Mortimer: Alice and librarian (played by Pockets)
  • Tranquilo: Fighter and conscripted sailor (played by Reamer) DEAD
  • Hector: Alice and orphan (played by Jamison) DEAD

Two Alices! Unfotunately, they didn’t start out with any crazy powers.

I took Zak’s advice and started the campaign with the party in a dungeon. The last thing they remembered was being in Berlin, when they blacked out or were knocked unconscious. Sometime later they wake up in a cold jail cell stripped of all their gear and weapons.

“Psst… Are you awake?” says a voice in the dim light of a single torch. As the party awakes, they look through the bars of their cell to the other cell across the hall. There sits Ana Fischer, a young blonde woman, “country pretty” in tattered clothes and showing clear signs of torture. “We must get out of here before the witch hunter returns!”

The party begins examining their surroundings, looking for a way out. Madeline finds an old bronze cloak pin under a pile of moldy straw. Maybe it will serve as a make-shift lock pick? Meanwhile, Belinda detects a slight draft coming from a crack in corner wall of the cell.

Unfortunately for them, this is old-style D&D! Searching an area or picking a lock takes a full 10 minute turn. Before they can try to unlock their door, the witch hunter, Lazarus Holtz (cleric 2), arrives with a couple of goons (0-level).

“Good, I see you heretics are awake,” sneers the witch hunter. “Fear not, I have thumbscrews enough for all of you. You will all confess your crimes in time. But first, Frau Fischer has an appointment with the stake.” The goons drag Ana kicking and screaming out of her cell. The party try to taunt Holtz and his men closer to the bars so they can grab them, but the witch hunter is too crafty and cautious. The PCs ineffectively pelt the villains with rotten straw and pebbles, as Holtz and company leave with Ana.

Now the PCs feel like they have a time limit if they want to save the pretty peasant girl (they do!). Thankfully, Holtz is long winded, and they can hear him chanting litanies and accusations somewhere above them. Madeline picks the lock on the cell door, while Belinda removes a few bricks in the corner of the cell to find a narrow tunnel that leads into the dark where they hear and smell running water. The tunnel is too cramped for some of the larger party members to fit through (specifically Tranquilo, whose 18 CON makes him pretty beefy, and Belinda, whose player previously described as “broad and curvy”). They decide to take the safer route through the open door.

A store room near the cell reveals one of Holtz’s henchmen under a blanket, dead from vicious wounds that the PCs can’t quite identify. Sadly the body has no weapons on it. Looking quickly in Ana’s cell, they only find an old steel bucket full of stinking human waste. For now it is the party’s only weapon.

The party sneaks down the hallway and around the corner where thy find another store room and hear voices in low conversation. Hector the Alice sneaks ahead to check out the voices, while the others examine the store room. They find a few barrels of dried beans and horse feed, as well as a small barrel of gunpowder and (more importantly) a variety of shovels and other tools they can use as makeshift weapons (1d6 damage!). Hector discovers that the voices belong to a couple of Holtz’s goons who are patiently cataloging the party’s stolen gear. A plan is quickly formed.

Hector spreads the liquid waste from the bucket along the hallway floor while the rest of the party hides behind the storeroom door or around the corner. Hector then starts banging on the wall with his shovel, attracting the attention of one of the goons. When the goon sees Hector, he draws his sword and charges, fails his saving throw, slips on the filth, and slides toward the store room door, where Hector splatters his head with a shovel (100 xp for the first kill of the campaign!). The second goon is quickly dispatched before he can raise an alarm. Flush with victory, the party quickly recovers their gear and heads upstairs just as Holtz wraps up his “let’s burn a witch” ritual.

The stairs lead up to the ground floor of a small ruined tower in an old Roman fort. They PCs peek out into the overgrown courtyard. It’s dark and heavy snow is falling. Ana Fischer is tied to a stake on a pile of kindling, soaked with oil. A large, bound book sits on the pyre with her. Holtz is there with some of his goons (two in the courtyard, two on the walls with guns). The villains make their surprise roll, spot the PCs and combat begins!

After years of playing “modern” D&D, LotFP was brutal and visceral. And while the individual rounds went quick, this combat went pretty long. Most fights in 5th edition D&D seem to last maybe 3 or 5 rounds. This fight went on for over ten rounds, but it was never boring. The free-form nature of old-style D&D gave my players the liberty to try things they’d never think of attempting in newer D&D. I also used Cavegirl’s“Horrible Wounds” rules, which led to some very gory deaths, some dramatic turn-arounds, and interesting long-term wounds. The combat started off well for the party, but there was a streak of 3-or-4 rounds where the dice just weren’t with them, and no one rolled higher than a 9.

At the start of combat, the party immediately splits (no time for tactical discussions with recently met strangers!). Tranquilo runs out to the courtyard to try and stop Holtz from lighting the pyre. Mortimer the Alice expresses his frustration with the situation and discover a previously non-existent secret door that leads out of the tower and outside of the fort. The rest of the party follow him out this door and start to make their way around the outside wall to where they hear picketed horses.

One tower gunman fires at the outside party, but misses due to range. The other gunman fires at Tranquilo, but also misses. The fighter quickly dispatches one of the Holtz’s sword-goons while the Witchhunter begins casting a spell. “Surrender!” he shouts at the fighter, casting Command. Tranquilo drops his weapons and goes to his knees. One of the goons slaps manacles on him and Holtz lights the pyre. Ana screams, for she only has a few rounds before the flames reach her.
The rest of the party finds the villains' horses and mounts up. Hector, with his high Charisma, even manages to befriend Holtz’s ill-tempered war horse. They spur the horses and charge through the fort gates into the courtyard!

Hector directs his new warhorse to leap over the fire and knock Ana and the stake out of the flames. They succeed, but not well. The horse catches on fire and bucks Hector off. Ana is free of her bonds, but has caught on fire.

Mortimer uses his sword to strike the manacles off Tranquilo, and the fighter lunges at Holtz. They roll around on the ground, locked in combat, but brave Tranquilo has high DEX, but low STR (only a 6!). Holtz’s gets the upper hand, and his thumb crushes one of Tranquilo’s eyes like a grape. The rest of the party is occupied fencing with Holtz’s henchmen and trying to extinguish Ana’s flames.

One of the goons hits Belinda and drops her to 0 hit points, driving his blade in one side of her head and out the other. According to Cavegirl’s Horrible Wounds table, she’s a “dead woman walking” and will die in 2 rounds. “I have a couple of dots in Chirurgy and a fishing kit,” her player asks. “Can I quickly lash my face back together?” The other players think this idea is hilarious, and so do I. Madeline’s player mimics Stewey Griffin with glass in his forehead (“Uh oh! Do I leave it in or take it out??”)

“Okay, I say, but you need to make 2 successfully Chirurgy rolls.” Belinda rolls her dice, and boom, a 1 and a 2. Two successes.

Try not to pick at that, Belinda.
“Okay, so now you have two inches of broken sword blade sticking out of both sides of your head,  
with fishing line and hooks holding your face together. You look kind of like a cenobite. You’re at 1hp, but alive and unconscious.” We all agreed that this was pretty fucking metal, and I don’t regret fudging the rules a bit to make things more metal.

Meanwhile, things are going just as poorly for the rest of the team. Holtz and Tranquilo are on their feet know, going at each other with swords. Holtz gets in a good hit and severs Tranquilo’s arm (I really, really love the Horrible Wounds table). Hector expresses his frustration and the Alice table reveals that he has a small item hidden on his person. We decide that a flintlock pistol is smaller than a breadbox and possible to conceal. The newly discovered gun takes out one of the goons, but another goon slashes the Alice’s guts wide open (100xp to his next character for the first death of the campaign!). Mortimer finally manages to extinguish Ana, who is now horribly burned, unconscious, but at least alive and not on fire. Madeline drags her to the relative safety of the tower.

At this point, it’s pretty much the Holtz and two goons vs Madeline, Mortimer, and nearly dead Tranquilo. The words “TPK” are on everyone’s lips.

Madeline’s grave-robbin’ pick splatters one goon’s head, but the other slices off her arm at the elbow. Mortimer the Alice expresses his frustration is suddenly recalls that the style of breastplate that Holtz wears has a structural defect under the left dorsal arm flap. He’s now +2 to hit the witch hunter and manages to get a light stab in.

Madeline shoves the stump of her arm into the fire and cauterizes the wound. This stops her from bleeding out, but she fails her save and passes out from the pain. Holtz strikes Tranquilo again, and now the fighter’s leg is ruined, along with his arm and eye. But with a surge of adrenaline, the fighter’s sword finally strikes true and kills Holtz.

The remaining goon fails his morale check and turns tail to run. “You have one round to live, Tranquilo” I say. “Do you want to try and bind your wound? You have a 1-in-6 chance.”

“Nope,” he replies. “I’m going to try and go out in style.” He throws his dagger at the fleeing goon, and drops him before he can escape. “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee,” Tranquilo sneers as he dies.
The combat is over, and only three PCs remain alive. Two are brutally wounded, along with NPC Ana.

GM’s Note: Ana Fischer actually is a witch, and really is in league with Lucifer! If the flames had killed her, she would have called out to her dark lord with her last breath and trams formed into a flaming undead monstrosity. This didn’t happen, but now I get to use her as a party complication as she tries to get the PCs under her sway and find a new spellbook. Should be interesting!

At the end of the session, the surviving party members take shelter in the ruined fort and try to mend their wounds. They have found plenty of camping gear, so are relatively comfortable. They also found the witch hunter’s treasure cache along with an annotated map of the surrounding area. Their next move is to make their way to the small village of Nonsbeck. Madeline the grave robber has also heard rumors of the Ghoul Market, and hopes someone there can reattach her arm. They are also debating whether or not to explore the tunnel they found in their jail cell.

  • Tranquilo (Fighter 1)
  • Hector (Alice 1)

Treasure Gained:
  • 300sp in German thalers
  • Large gold and ivory crucifix (worth 500sp, maybe more to the right people)
  • Various mundane arms and equipment. 

End Notes:
It's really nice to run some old-style D&D game, and I had a blast running this first adventure. I'm excited to see where my players go next. I'm laying out the groundwork to set them up for The Pale Lady, but it looks like we might take a quick visit to the Ghoul Market first. Of course, Nonsbeck will eventually have some horrible stuff happen to the townsfolk. 

The intro adventure I put together fit nicely on two steno pages. Allow me to share...

Thursday, December 13, 2018

LotFP: Ashes of Angles (New Campaign Info)

I’m very excited that I get to start running my new LotFP campaign this weekend. I’ve wanted to run some faux-historical dark fantasy stuff for a while, and I finally convinced my home group to give it a go. My kid (a big fan of Dark Souls and Darkest Dungeon) was very eager to play, and was helpful in getting my other players on board.

Session 0 is this weekend, which will mostly focus on character creation, rules explanations, and setting introduction. I don’t expect any of that to take too long, so we should be able to roll right into the starting adventure in the same session (the PCs will need to escape from a small, 5-room dungeon).

The following is the campaign introduction I shared to my group’s Facebook group. I wanted to make sure my players had a solid idea of what I was shooting for in the campaign. I thought I’d share it here.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Ashes of Angels

Campaign Concept: The Holy Roman Empire, Brandenburg, Berlin, 1630. Central Europe has been embroiled in war for 12 years with no end in sight. The conflict that will one day be known as the Thirty Years War started as a clash between Protestants and Catholics and has escalated into a land war between numerous family dynasties wrestling for control of Europe. Unceasing war has led to famine, which has led to disease, which has led to the resurgence of witch hunts. Entire towns have been wiped off the map, and cities lie half-empty. To the average peasant, it very much seems like the world is ending. Maybe it is. Certainly, there are unnatural things crawling through the night and haunting the hidden places of the world.

Player Characters: You are outcasts and refugees from “normal” society. Maybe you’re a last survivor of a ruined village. Maybe you’re a criminal or deserter. Maybe you’re an actual witch. Maybe God talks to you in dreams. Maybe you’re just a woman with strong opinions. Maybe you’re not actually a human. Now you’re trying to survive and make your fortune by any means necessary. The War has uncovered many lost treasures but has also reawakened pagan things that guard them. It’s dirty work for dirty people like you.

System: Lamentations of the Flame Princess by James Raggi. It’s a streamlined and compact version of old-style (B/X) Dungeon & Dragons designed for weird fantasy and survival horror campaigns. Encumbrance and resource management will be important. Combat is dangerous, and healing is slow. Black powder weapons are common, and heavy armor isn’t. I’ve added a number of house-rules and hacks to help fit the system to this specific setting, including reskinning the classical fantasy races to more appropriate options.

Campaign Structure: The campaign will be fairly open and sand-boxy. The PCs start as prisoners thrown together, but after that you will have all of Europe (indeed, the world) to play in. You might choose to become grave robbers, bounty hunters, pirates, or anything else. There will be plenty of adventure and story hooks to latch onto or avoid as you see fit. Treasure = XP in this system, so you’ll always want to keep a lookout for the next big score.

  • Solomon Kane
  • Three Musketeers
  • A Field in England
  • Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter
  • Hammer horror movies in general
  • Masque of the Red Death (the Vincent Price movie)
  • Flesh & Blood
  • Darkest Dungeon
  • The Witcher
  • Bloodbourne

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Random Encounters in Bleak Europe (LotFP)

Ah, now this is the stuff I love doing. Now that I'm back to prepping and running some DIYD&D stuff, I get to make all sorts of cool things that I can share with folks.

My upcoming Lamentations of the Flame Princess game will take place in 17th century Central Europe. The PCs will have plenty of opportunities to travel, so that means I need to put together a random encounters table. Like all good encounter tables, I wanted to make sure the entries helped express the atmosphere and theme of the game world. In this case, it's bleak semi-apocalypse with war, disease, and witchcraft.

When I use this table, I'll probably cross out each encounter after it procs. Even with a d30 list, I don't want to have too many repeat encounters. Gotta' keep it fresh!

These encounters were written with LotFP in mind, but it should work well enough for aby other old-style D&D game.

Download from Google Docs or read below!

Bleak Europe Random Encounters

Check for encounters twice per day while travelling across war-torn Central Europe.
An encounter happens on a roll of a 1 on 1d6.
Roll 1d30 to find out what the PCs have discovered.

1) Pilgrims travelling to an ancient shrine
  • 6d6 0-level pilgrims.
  • 15% chance of being led by level 1d3 cleric.

2) Bandits
  • 2d6 0-level fighters
  • 2nd level fighter leader

3) Soldiers travelling to join up with their main force.
  • 1d6 x 50 0-level fighters lead by 3rd level fighter (captain), plus 1st level fighter per 50 soldiers (sergeants)
  • Roll 1d4
  • 1: German
  • 2: Swedish
  • 3: Danish
  • 4: French

4) 2d4 lepers run out of the closest town.
  • 0-levels. Save vs. poison each hour of contact to avoid catching leprosy.

5) 1d6 peasants (0-level) digging a mass grave
  • Attracts 1d4+1 ghouls at night.
  • Ghouls: HD: 2; AC: 14; Rasping tongue +2 (1d6, save vs paralysis or lose Dex equal to damage); Morale: 9

6) Witch Hunter
  • 50/50 chance of either catholic or protestant
  • Roll 1d4
  • 1: Fighter level 1-4
  • 2: Cleric level 1-4
  • 3: Specialist level 1-6
  • 4: 0-level
  • Accompanied by 2d4 0-level assistants and guards

7) Ruined Village
  • 75% chance of 1d3 rag pickers
  • 25% chance of 1d4 ghouls

8) Travelling merchant with wagon and pack animals
  • 1d3+1 guards (Fighter 1)
  • Selling (roll 1d6):
  • 1-4: general goods
  • 5: luxury goods
  • 6: weapons and armor
  • 1d6 x 100sp in cash

9) Travelling performers
  • 4d4 actors, musicians, and acrobats
  • 20% of Magic User level 1-4

10) Hungry Wolves!
  • 2d6 wolves (2 HD; AC: 12; Bite +2 (1d6); Morale 7)

11) Large tree full of 3d30 corpses hanging from nooses.
  • 25% chance of attracting 3d6 ghouls at night
  • 20% chance of being haunted by marco-spectre
  • Macro-Spectre: HD: number of bodies/3, HP: number of bodies; AC: 12; Ectoplasmic torrent +HD to hit (1d12 damage, save or lose 1 from all attributes); Only hurt by magic, silver, or cold iron; Morale: 12

12) Orphans
  • 2d6 pre-adolescent children. Lost, frightened, and hungry.

13) 3d6 prisoners of war, crucified along the road. 
  • Very much dead.

14) Battlefield littered with the recently dead.
  • 1d6 rag pickers
  • 15% chance of attracting 2d6 ghouls
  • 1-in-8 chance each turn of finding something interesting among the dead soldiers.

15) 1d6x10 refugees. 0-level
  • Cold, hungry, and desperate.

16) Ancient cemetery
  • 25% chance of containing passage to Ghoul Market
  • 20% chance of buried valuable grave goods (2d6x50sp value)

17) Magic User (level 1d6), travelling to visit an associate.
  • Accompanied by bonded and disguised demon with HD equal to MU’s level.

18) Dead horse lies bloated in the middle of the road.
  • Stomach will erupt with 2d6 deadly snakes (1 HD; AC 12; Bite +1 (1 damage, save or loose 3d6 CON); Morale 7).

19) Dead man hangs from a tree. 
  • His crime is branded onto his chest (roll 1d6).
  • 1: Rape
  • 2: Murder
  • 3: Horse theft
  • 4: Desertion
  • 5: Heresy
  • 6: Witchcraft

20) Farm with 1d6+1 family members (0 levels)
  • Roll 1d6 for disposition
  • 1: Friendly but boastful
  • 2: Suspicious and surly
  • 3: Fearful and violent
  • 4: Superstitious but generous
  • 5: Pious but mournful
  • 6: Cannibals

21) Band of 1d4+2 deserters. (1st level fighters, morale 5)
  • Swords and pole arms, guns but no ammo. Frightened, but not looking for a fight.

22) Bear, maddened by sickness
  • HD 5; AC 14; Claw/claw/bite +5 (1d4/1d4/1d6); save vs poison or contract rabies; Morale 10

23) 3 plague doctors (2nd level specialists) travelling to infested village.
  • Carry 3d4 bottles of medicine. (15% chance of actually being functional healing potions, 2d4 hp)

24) Man (0-level) pulling a wagonload of corpses
  • What's he up to? (Roll 1d6)
  • 1-4: Taking the corpses to a nearby mass grave
  • 5-6: Taking corpses to sell to a necromancer he knows (level 1d6+3 Magic User)

25) Traveling noble, off to visit a relation in a nearby city
  • Level 0 noble, guarded by 1d6+2 2nd level fighters.
  • 2d6x100sp in cash, gifts, and jewelry.

26) Hermit, washing his clothes in a nearby stream.
  • Level 1-4 cleric. Hair shirt, staff, pet goat, hallucinogenic mushrooms.

27) Eloping Couple
  • Young 0-level minor nobles from rival families.
  • Horse, 2d6x20sp in cash and jewelry. Bad instincts and no survival skills.
  • Perused by bounty hunter (level 5 specialist, 2-6 chance each night of catching up to them).
  • Families have each issued a 500sp bounty for their child’s safe return.

28) Old, abandoned windmill
  • Decent shelter. 
  • 20% chance of being used by 1d4 witches (level 1d4 magic users) to grind children’s bones into meal.

29) Vampire, traveling to new lair.
  • 1d6 0-level minions. Horses and wagon with coffin full of grave dirt. Deed to ancient building.
  • Vampire: HD: 8; AC: 16; Claw/Claw +8 (1d6, if both claws hit the vampire bites and drains blood for 1d4 CON per round); Only hurt by magic, silver, or fire; Charm Person at will; Vampire powers; Morale: 10

30) Apocalypse Angel, visible a mile away, harvesting souls from (roll 1d4):
  • 1: Plague-ridden village
  • 2: Famine-ruined farms
  • 3: Bloody battlefield
  • 4: Mass-suicide
  • Apocalypse Angel: HD: 12; AC: 18; Sword of Ruination +12 (4d6, 2 attacks per round); Ashen Gaze (save or disintegrate); Morale 12

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Outlanders, Molemen, and Serpentblood for LotFP (Reskinned Classes)

I will soon wrap up my Warhammer 40K: Wrath & Glory campagin and move onto running Lamentation of the Flame Princess. Not surprisingly, it will be set in a weird-fantasy version of Europe at the height of the 30 Years War. Originally I planned on including Dwarves and Elves, describing them as remnants of pagan faerie empires or whatever. I soon decided, though, that while I wanted to keep the demihuman classes I wanted to make them different from the classic fantasy standbys. Reskinning was the way to go--keep the classses mechincally the same (or with slight tweaks) and change all the fluff.

Changing the Halfling to the Outlander was my least creative change. A lot of people have turned the Halfling into some kind of ranger or explorer class. Their bonuses with ranged weapons and natural woodland abilities make this easy. I decided to stick with the precendent and make them "Outlanders," often Native American or African tribesmen, but also buckskinners or mountain men. Mostly, I just thought Mani in Brotherhood of the Wolf was always cool.

For the Dwarf, I still wanted to keep the class hardy and crafty. If I could inject some Hollow Earth weirndess into their subterranean kingdoms, all the better. Molemen were the obvious choice. They are heavily inspired (that is, lifted almost directly) by mole-men John Hodgman writes of in More Information Than You Require. This is not the first time I've stolen his Molemen.

For Elves, I chose to turn them into Serpentblood. I've always loved the Yuan-Ti in D&D, and I've always been fascinated/amused by the hidden reptilian masters of UFO lore. Of course, the Snake Men of Valusia and King Kull were also an influence. These are all the same reasons I brought the Sneaky Snakes into Hobomancer. Also I'm pretty sure Selena from the core LotFP cast is supposed to be half-snake or something. Anyway, replacing elves with decendants of extra-dimensional reptilian sorcerer kings lets me add some weird conspiracy stuff to the campaign.

Here, then, are the class write-ups...


Outlanders are warriors and survivalists specialized for operating in the wilderness and on the frontier--the lands outside supposed "civilization." Many outlanders are from places that Europeans would disparagingly call “primitive”—often uncolonized America or Africa. Some European frontiersmen also qualify as Outlanders (your mountain man or buckskinner types). 

The Outlander is a reskin of the LotFP Halfling class. In most ways they function identically to that class, except that they have no restriction on weapon sizes and only receive the +1 bonus to AC if they are lightly encumbered or less.


Molemen are hideous subterranean humanoids with hunched bodies, withered, rodent-like faces, translucent skin, and borderline-heretical beliefs in liberal democracy. They can pass for ugly, stunted humans. Most people just assume they are foreigners from whatever country their homeland hates the most (“Beady eyes, weird teeth… the man’s obviously Welsh”). Molemanic women are just as hideous as their menfolk. High-ranking Molemen often wear powdered wigs. Molemen will introduce this fashion to European nobility in the latter half of the 17th century.   

Molemen possess a sophisticated culture and civilization deep below the Earth that values industry and learnedlness. Molemanic societies are sexually egalitarian and comprise some of the few functional democracies in these benighted times. Sadly, these subterranean republics are currently experiencing some unspoken catastrophe. Many exiles and refugees have made their way to the surface world. In 1825, the Molemen will form an alliance with the American president, John Quincy Adams, who well lend them aid and arms in an attempt to reclaim the Hollow Earth.

Mechanically, Molemen are a reskin of the LotFP Dwarf class and function exactly like that class, including combat options and carrying capacity. In my campaign, I have gotten rid of the Architecture skill. Dwarves (and Molemen by extension) replace it with Tinkering.


Serpentblood are descendants of the extradimensional reptilians that once ruled the Earth from the lost empire of Valusia, back when mankind was young. Modern serpentblood little resemble their ophidian forbearers, but often grow more snake-like as they grow in power. Serpentblood are normally raised unaware of their heritage, and the xenogenetic traits often skip several generations. Around puberty, a newly awakened serpentblood is visited in their dreams by their reptilian ancestors, who make them aware of their alien birthrights and direct them towards other of their kin for training. As decendants of alien sorcerer-kings, all serpentblood have a natural talent for magic and combat. Awakened serpentblood have several conclaves hidden in the jungles of South America and central Asia, as well as Greece and the mountains of Romania.

Mechanically, Serpentblood are a reskin of the LotFP Elf class. In most respects they function exactly like that class, including spellcasting and combat ability. They are chaotic in alignment and share the same vulnerability to holy water and the like. Their natural Search ability is due to their semi-functional jacobson’s organs. Serpentblood often become more snakelike as they grow in power. At 2nd level and each level thereafter, roll a Save vs. Magic (using the saves for the new level). If the roll fails, roll 1d8 on the chart below to determine what serpentine trait manifests. Repeated instances become more pronounced.

1. Eyes become snakelike with slitted pupils.
2. Tongue grows longer and forked.
3. Pigmentation becomes mottled or banded like a snake.
4. Character grows a thin (non-prehensile) tail.
5. Character loses all body hair.
6. Skin becomes scaly
7. Character develops a taste for small birds and rodents, preferably live and whole.
8. Teeth become sharp and fang-like.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Golden Humongous NPCS (Wrath & Glory)

We're coming up on the last couple of sessions of out Warhammer 40K: Wrath & Glory campaign. The campaign's going to be shorter than I orignally intended--it's not quite hitting my creative buttons as much as I'd like, and I'm eager to start my historical horror-fantasy LotFP campaign. The warband is going to scour the lost city of Yggdrail on the planet Ymir, then I think we're going to put them on the shelf for a while. It will be a good adventure to end the campaign on.

All that said, I'm pretty plleased withthe NPC crew I came up with for the Golden Humongous--the voidship the warband serves on under the command of Lord Captain Gabriel Galahad.

"WWPHITM" (pronounced WHUP-a-tum) stands for "Who Would Play Him/Her in the Movie." It's a useful character stat Ipicked up from my work with QAGS.

Golden Humongous

  • Conquest class Star Galleon 
  • 5 km long. Crew of 65,000 
  • Massive void ship, ancient and powerful. 
  • Several decks have been closed off for 5000 years. 
  • Persistent maintenance problems. 
  • Giant golden Valkyrie on prow. Custom gravity generators on outer hull to make massive banners flap and wave impressively.

Lord Captain, Gabriel Galahad, Rogue Trader
Servo skull! Take a letter!
  • Arrogant and daring. Swashbuckling vagabond hero of the Imperium who’s claimed a dozen systems in the name of the Emperor. Also the ponciest ponce who ever ponced. 
  • Writ of Trade signed by the emperor Himself, passed down for over 200 generations over 10 millennia. 
  • Currently looking for a proper wife. 
  • Bridge crew is all attractive women. 
  • WWPHITM: Matthew Berry 

Sister Lucinda
  • Adepta Sororitas Hospitaller 
  • Ship’s Medicae 
  • WWPHITM: Salma Hayak 

For the emperor!
  • Tech Priest 
  • Ship’s Engiseer 
  • Lecherous and foul 
  • Overclocked emotional processor 
  • WWPHITM: Matt Frewer 

Captain Boudica Grimm
  • Ship’s arch militant 
  • Commander of Imperial Guard, 317th Battalion. “Emperor’s Fury” 
  • WWPHITM: Angelina Jolie 

Desdemona of House Belphoebe
  • Ship’s Navigator 
  • Haughty and Serene. Secure of her position onboard. 
  • Long proud line of Navigators that have worked on the Golden Humongous for 10,000 years. 
  • WWPHITM: Cate Blanchett 

Caliban Cane
  • Ship’s Atstropath 
  • Blind, spidery, unusually tall. 
  • Has 17 cats. 
  • WWPHITM: Doug Jones 

Ecclesiarch Hironimus Blott
  • Old but fiery 
  • Side interest in archaeology 
  • Champion swordsman in his youth 
  • WWPHITM: Michael Gambon 

Tiberius Grubbs
  • Ship’s Bosun and Galahad’s chief aide. 
  • Soft-spoken, but fiercely loyal to his captain. 
  • WWPHITM: Noel Fielding 

Corporal Daniel “Danny” Daniels
  • Shuttle and transport pilot 
  • Chirpy, excitable, optimistic 
  • WWPHITM: Tom Holland

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Voyage of the Golden Humongous, part 2

Between conventions, and work, and people getting sick, we haven't had a chance to get back to our Warhammer 40K: Wrath & Glory game for several weeks. But it looks like Fate is smiling on us finally, and we're going to get back to the campaign tomorrow.

Our last session was pretty short and direct, as the war band continued to look for the missing techpriest, Thermius Stembolt 57. Looking through the ruins of Stembolt's workshop-shrine, they found the remains of the techpriest's gun serviotrs and found his damaged servo-skull. Nero performed the proper repair litanies and was able to repair the skull as well as access some of its data recordings. The recordinds showed Stembolt barricading himself within his work-shrine before being grabbed by giant crab-claws and drug away. Thinking quickly, the warband was able to hack the servo-skull and use its connection to its master to use the servitor as a guide-dog to lead them to wherever Stembolt was drug off to.

As the warband exited the work-shrine back into the filthy hive alleys, they were suddenly attacked on three sides by several bobs of Crazed Slaanesh Thrill Killers.

Crazed Slaanesh Thrill Killers
Naked, erect, and howling. Tentacles replace fingers and genitals.
Strength: 2
Intellect: 1
Agility: 4
Willpower: 3
Toughness: 3
Fellowship: 2
Initiative: 4
Defense: 3
Speed: 7
Wounds:   3
Shock: 3
Soak: 3
Resolve: 3
Conviction: 2
Passive Awareness: 2
Skills: Weapons Skill 4, Default 3
Size: Average
Keywords: Human, Heretic, Chaos, Slaanesh

Agonizing Tentacles: Damage 5+1ED, agonizing
Naked, erect, and howling (Fear 3): Encountering a Mob of these creatures requires a Fear check (DN: 3)
Crazed: Thrill Killers never fail Resolve tests.
Touch of Slaanesh: A creature brought to 0 Wounds or 0 Shock by a Thrill Killer must make a corruption test.

This was the PCs' first big combat, and they chewed through the cultlings pretty quickly. A timely warp surge from Ayza the scaavy psyker's paralize power took out half of them in one burst. Chainswords and bolters took care of the rest.

Pressing on, the warband followed the servo skull deeper intot he underhive, eventually winding their way into a narrow passageway filled with heretical graffitti. In an abandoned storehouse, they discovered a discarded servo arm and a tech-priest face plate. Bad signs for old Stembolt.

Moist, glowing, underground passages led to a sticky chamber full of discarded matresses that stank of opium and skin. Stembolt-57 the techprist lay slumped against the side of a well, his exposed face glistening metal and raw bone with his eyes rolling senselessly. Two distressingly aluring daemonettes languidly cut long strips of skin from his exposed chest.

Sudeenly a holo-projector flickered into action. Antioch Gol, rogue psyker, cultist, and old enemy of Lord Captain Gabriel Galahad taunted the warband:

“I had hopes that Galahad would have come here himself, but I should have known he’d send lackys instead. Never do yourself what you can have underlings do instead. Speaking of… ladies…” 

The daemonettes attack!

The fight was fast and furious. Toska the Death Cult Assassin took out one daemonette with a single critical hit from her sniper rifle. But the daemonette's sister stuck back with horrific speed and put dow the assasin with her own critical. After that it was a tense but simple exchange of blows while the rest of the warband took out the daemonette and her thrill killer reinforcements. Commisar Elizabeth quickly stabilized the sticken Toska.

After that it was all clean-up. Techpriest Stembolt is brought to the Golden Humongous. With his over-clocked emotional processor, he is vocally and exuberantly grateful for his rescue and happy to be reuinted with his old friend the Lord Captain.

The first short adventure of our Wrath & Glory campaign went fairly smooth. The system's a bit kludgy, but it get easier with each session. I'm not sure how long I'm going to run it (I'm itching to start some Lamentation of the Flame Princess). The next adventure will be a bit more involved and will center around exploring an abandoned city on a dead planet.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Archon Happened! (Archon 42 Convention Report)

Archon is an old-school sci-fi and fantasy convention in Collinsville, IL (just across the river from St Louis) with a pretty decent gaming component. What do I mean by “old-school” convention? Well, they still call it an SF/F convention, they talk about “masquerade” instead of “cosplay,” they still have “filking” and they refer to the dealers’ area as the “hucksters’ room.” Old school, yo. The con attracts about 2,000 people and plays hosts to a lot of room parties. Much of Saturday night just becomes a big nerdy bacchanal. I’ve had a lot of fun there.

Hex Games (makers of QAGS and Hobomancer!) is surprisingly popular there, and we usually sell
decently. Archon’s a bit of a trek for me from Toledo, so I haven’t gone back in about 6 years. But after the fun time I had at Gencon this summer, the Hex boys convinced me to return to Archon. It was, after all, Hex Games’s 20th anniversary, and we had some celebrating to do!

On Thursday, I made my way down to Cincinnati to meet up with Leighton “Laser Beams” Connor, and we headed out to St Louis bright and early Friday morning. The trip was largely without incident and we made it to the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville with some time to spare before our 2pm games. We used that time to go to the Hex Games booth and touch base with Steve “Dollar Sign” Johnson, Carter ”Greyhound” Newton, Ian “Erudite” Engle, and Jeffrey “Beloved Family Man” Johnson. We admired our new 20th anniversary banner and were especially pleased with our new release, the print version of the complete American Artifacts collection (coming soon to DrivethruRPG!).

My first game was “Warlock High School” using the in-development Cinemechanix system:
  • The Abernathy Q. Weiterstadt Academy for Thaumic Studies is the Midwest’s third greatest school for young wizards. You’ll quickly find that magic doesn’t make high school any easier for your group of misfit teens. Midterms are on the way and those snobs from Presto Prep are causing trouble yet again. It’s high-school hijinx with a magical twist!

I ran this game at Gencon, so I was pretty well prepared. The plot revolves around the mysterious disappearance of the entire high school, an idea a stole from an old Firesign Theater album. The game went smoothly, and the Cinemechanix system works very well. It was easy to plug in sub-systems for magic and relationships. I have vague plans to adapt the setting into its own game using my own story-gamey system. So, y’know, watch this space.

Later that night, in the dealer’s room, I ran into Jarrett Crader, whose name was somewhere on almost everything I bought at Gencon this year. We talked briefly about the upcoming Mothership horror-sci-fi RPG (looks exciting) and the importance of editing and public gaming in regards to promotion. I wish I had a chance to speak with him more, but we both had things to do. He gave me some sweet Mothership swag, though. Thanks Jarrett!

We had two panels to run Friday night. The first, “Flash Bang Forever!” was about magic in RPGs, and frankly went kind of clumsily. The second panel, “How to Run a One-Shot” went a lot smoother. It focused on running one-shot games at conventions and public venues and I think we had a lot of good advice to share. At some point I’ll put together an article on the subject. I’ve run a lot of one-shots over the years.

Friday morning we carbo-loaded at the Drury Inn’s breakfast bar and made our way back across the street to the convention center. I had two games on Saturday, with only a half-an-hour between them. 

My morning game was QAGS: Apocalypse Truckers:
  • Civilization may have crumbled beneath a rain of nuclear fire, but folks still need their toilet paper, beer, and Molly Hatchet 8-tracks. The irradiated highways are dangerous for any lone trucker. Your best bet is to team up with some other wasteland weirdos and form yourself a CONVOY! Grab your shotgun, jump behind the wheel, and get ready for some post-apocalypse grindhouse fun with QAGS!

The set-up was pretty simple. Take cargo from point A to point B with weird stuff happening in between. I had a fun random-cargo table, and I had a bunch of Matchbox cars for the players to use to represent their vehicles. It was Smokey and the Bandit meets Road Warrior.  I made good of the copy of Country Crawl Classics I got from Jarett at Gencon, for times when I had to decide “what happens next?” It was bloody and violent and weird.

My afternoon game was Hobomancers in Space:
  • It’s the height of the Great Depression, and the Hobomancers are a rail-riding fellowship of drifters and shamans. You’ve fought monsters in a dozen small towns, you’ve even traveled through time, all to protect the soul of America. Now, it’s time to head into outer space and confront a cosmic threat from beyond the Outer Dark!

I also ran this game at Gencon, so I was good and ready to run it. It’s a sequel to last year’s “Hobomancers in Space” which was a sequel to the previous year’s “Hobomancer’s in Hell.” I’m not sure what the next step will be. This adventure was fun because I got to tap into all my knowledge of weird UFO lore—shapeshifting reptilians, blue doctors, planet Nibiru, all of that. It also lets me play one of my favorite NPCs, Thermal Vent Terwilliger, the alien hobomancer.

Saturday night we had our “20 Years of Hex Games” panel-slash-birthday party. We didn’t have a huge turn-out, since we were scheduled opposite the masquerade contest and drinking. Still it was a fun panel that went over the various ups and downs of Hex Games over the past two decades.

As I had said before, Archon is a party con. Much of Saturday night is given over to room parties, drinking, and nerdly frolicking. Not too many years ago, my friends and I were all eager participants in these celebrations. We stayed out until 4am, stopping only because the booze ran out, crawling into bed only to wake up a few hours later to run 8am games, hungover or still drunk from the night before.

Yeah, we don’t do that anymore. This year we just went to Carter’s room with a bottle of Jefferson’s bourbon. We poured liberally from the bottle, reminisced about days gone by, and made wildly inappropriate jokes with Hex Games corporate mascot Happy D20. We were all in bed by midnight.
Calm down, fellas!
Happy D20 sez: "The 90s never died, y'all!"

Sundays at Archon are pretty hit-or-miss. Leighton’s game didn’t go off (no players) and Steve only had a short 2-hour game that attracted a handful of players. We made a few last-minute sales in the dealers’ room, and then it was time to break everything down.  We had our traditional Archon dinner at the thoroughly-average Mexican restaurant next to the convention center, and it was time to part ways.

I used to go to Collinsville twice a year—once for Archon, and once for Diecon. This was my first time back in 6 years, and I was happy to make the trip. The people at Archon are always welcoming, and it’s good to decompress with a smaller con after focusing on Gencon so much. More importantly it was good to see my friends again. I hope to come back next year.