Sunday, 24 November 2013

Assumptions and House Rules


These guys had some cool adventures.

Some thoughts to help serve as a reference point for the players.
  • This is a game of fun, it is not meant to be simulationist. I'm interested in exploring, and coming up with the sneaky plan more than exploring characters at length.
  • This game belongs to all the participants; it’s not just the DMs ego-stroking.  This means that as players you have a responsibility for your own fun.  If there is something about the game you don’t like then we need to change it.  This means paying attention and following (some) leads.
  • Land of 1000 Towers is the default setting.  It has a warped 19th century sort of feel and fashion sense in the city and main towns, a more gaucho/cowboy feel out of town.
  • Aim is Science Fantasy inspired by the likes of Gene Wolfe, Iian M Banks, Heavy Metal (comic and movie), Wizards (movie), Conan (movie – old), Labyrinth, Big Trouble in Little China, Zardoz.
  • Labyrinth Lord is the default rule set.  Advanced Edition Companion will probably be used.  (LL is the equivalent of Basic and Expert D&D – the Red Box set.  Advance Edition Companion is essentially 1st ed AD&D).
  • Race as class; if you are not human, your race is also your class.  This keeps things simple and there are many home brew Labyrinth Lord compatible racial classes on the net.   i.e. If you are an Elf, you class is Elf, not Elven Fighter Magic User Thief.
  • D6 Hit Points for Theives.  Because they're just too weak otherwise.
  • If the players wish, other character classes will become available as the game progresses.  E.g.  Scientists, Moktars, Winged Monkeys.
  • If you find something you like on the internet and you want one then just ask and we’ll try to fit it in.  This could be a character class, adventure, magic item, monster etc.
  • Characters will die as the die rolls.  This will increase tension during sessions and the payoff for success.  This way the goal is about survival, not showing everyone just how much of a special snowflake you can imagine.
  • A ‘rolling cast’ approach is desirable.  This will mean we can still play when not everyone can attend, it allows for others to join the game, and it will hopefully introduce a small element of competition for places at the table which I’m hoping will result in increased enthusiasm.
  • An online character generator was used for the initial characters.  This only produces the main classes from the core book.
  • Given the choice between ‘Hardcore’ (3d6 in order), and ‘Soft’ (4d6 in order swap two) the players went for the latter, much to the (feigned) disgust of the DM.
  • Most players are newbs and we have limited players.  Players got two characters each to start with one main character and one as a henchman on a half share to act as backup character.  
  • We agreed to use the Dungeon of Signs counterspell rules.  Roll D20 plus level and INT bonus against AC10 less caster’s level and INT bonus. This saved the party's ass in session 8 (which is where we introduced it).
  • We had a couple of deaths at the hands of the Pretender in the same round.  Not wanting the PCs to die as soon as they hit 0hp, we agreed on a saving throw verses death to live.  Characters successfully saving will be on 1hp until they receive medical attention and may have disfigurements.  Reaching -10 is dead, -6 means something permanent.

Some Session Reports


Chef's specialty at Bella's.  Eyeballs in Tomato Sauce.
Nick:  Dode Enemybreaker - Dwarf 1;  Cybella - Magic User 1
Theresa:  Fokus, Cleric 1;  Valegerd,Thief 1.
Telfer:  Fighter 1;  Maredud - Theif 1.

  • PCs randomly selected Lugosi as the starting place because it sounded cool.  Fools.
  •  PCs arrive in Lugosi, hungry tired and unemployed.
  • The mirrors that decorate the lower levels of buildings in Lugosi have the characters nervous.
  •  They go to Bella’s Bar and Grille where they meet Pistol Vernon, pistoleero barkeep in a black bullfighter suit and sombrero who recommends they talk to One Tooth Mary if they want work, and to not ask about how she came to be known as One Tooth Mary,
  • He also tells them it is only 18 more days until the Festival of the Fangs.
  • One Tooth Mary (A5) is an older woman attended by three short bald men in corduroy suits.  Mary is in a black lacy gown with a veil obscuring her eyes. 
  • They agree on a contract with Mary who provides a map to the Prison of the Hated Pretender in exchange for an agreement to retrieve an item for her that is believed to be at the prison.
  • Mary gets annoyed when Nick presses her regarding how she came to be known as One Tooth Mary.  She does not tell him.
  • The characters leave town the next morning.  They are ambushed by two Goblins (go dice) who are rather confused as they have lost touch with the Overmind. They ask the PCs if they have seen the Overmind, and demand food when the PCs reply that they have not.  A short fight ensues with one dead and one fled.

GAINS:  Map, job, contacts.


Nick:  Dode Enemybreaker - Dwarf 1, Cybella - Magic User 1
Syam:  Brychan - Fighter 1, Elf 1.
Telfer:  Fighter 1, Maredud - Theif1.
Michael:  Magic User 1, Cleric 1

  • Having traveled all day to reach the tower, the PCs arrive at the tower just before sunset and anxious to get on with it proceed inside.
  • The The PCs decipher  the frescos on the walls on the first level, which depict a brutal reign by a tyrant followed by an equally brutal punishment and imprisonment of the tyrant.
  • The PCs proceed upstairs, and are hesitating at the one door they find on that level; when trying to open it, it is grabbed and pulled shut from the other side and rough speech tells them "go away".  They hesitate, and because it is sunset, the phantasm-sentinels are transiting from the sunny upper floors to the lower levels looking for the Pretender to begin their torments.
  • We had a classic d&d moment with the players outside the door to the Pretender’s room, and the phantasms are coming in from the ceiling hatch behind them.  The indecision and fear at being caught between the two groups made for a very desperate fight that was very enjoyable despite being a straight up smack down.
  • Mike's wizard proves how useful flaming oil is and blocks the hatch with a fire, reducing the number of phantasms the PCs face.
  • Having dispatched the phantasms, the pretender emerges, and talks to the PCs about his pumpkins.  Negotiations quickly break down and combat ensues.  Brychan and Elf make short work of the melee, with two big sword blows felling the wretched being.
  • The PCs investigate the upper level, and Cybella spitefully smashed the pretender's pumpkins.  
  • The PCs find the solar system model, and moving it to align with the stars, a click is heard releasing the spherical device Mary is after.  Having activated it in the process, Mike's wizard is rewarded  with a vision of doom coming to all.
  • The PCs then proceed to the basement where they are please to find some treasure, even if it is being worn by corpses who appear to be the previous band of adventurer's to visit the tower. 
  • However, growing frustrated with the description of a raised mosaic on the floor, Dode announced he was stepping on the mosaic and promptly fell through into the pit full of broken bones and died (edit – we didn't establish the dying house rules until next session – Nick, please don’t hate your DM).
  • That is where we end the session.

LOSSES:  Sadly Dode will not be returning, having discovered the hard way that one does not check for traps by walking all over the obvious trap.

GAINS:  Treasure – approximately 1500gp worth, PLUS magical Scale Mail.  400xp each pc, 200xp per henchman.


Nick:  Magic User 1
Syam:  Fighter 1, Elf 1.
Telfer:  Fighter 1, Thief 1.
Michael:  Magic User 1, Cleric 1
Theresa:  Cleric 1,  Thief 1


We had a couple of deaths at the hands of the Pretender in the same round.  Not wanting the PCs to die as soon as they hit 0hp, we agreed on a saving throw verses death to live.  Characters successfully saving will be on 1hp until they receive medical attention and may have disfigurements.

  • As the session began, the PCs were still in the basement gloating over their loot and generally not being too worried by the corpse of their good friend.
  • The door above is thrown open, the Pretender, apparently unharmed by the mighty blows delivered by the Boy and his Elf,  appears at the top of the stairs. “Which one of you c@#$% smashed up my pumpkins!”  He attacks mercilessly, with his fury focussed on the Mage.  Telfer’s fighter bravely attempted to take some of the heat off the mage only to have his throat ripped out by a vicious blow from the Pretender.  As he falls to the ground, the Pretender seizes the mage by the throat and breaks his neck.  A save is successful for the mage and he is barely conscious with 1hp, the F1s save is not successful and he dies gurgling in a large pool of blood.
  • Some phantasms appear at the top of the stairs and the party freaks, throwing flaming oil in every direction.  The phantasms are here to persecute the pretender however and theyassist the PCs in their melee,
  • Once the pretender goes down the phantasms turn on the PCs with their scintillating refrain “visitors are not allowed” and the PCs make the best decision of the session and leave the Prison.
  • Exiting the tower they run into T’s characters, who have just caught up with them.
  • The DM is surprised when the PCs actually take a couple of hours to bury their dead friends!
  • They return to Lugosi and Bella’s Bar and Grille.  Lurch the Doorman takes one look at them and directs them to the inn facilities, there’s no way he’s going to let them in the bar with the state they’re in.
  • Having settled in, they meet with Mary, who is obviously rather pleased when they hand over the orb.  They press Mary for details of a magic user to help identify their loot, but Mary instead looks scared and says she doesn’t know.  PCs suspect she is lying.
  • The next morning one of Mary’s helpers appears and relates that a girl and her dog (Elizabeth and Timmy) have gone missing over by the Barrow Field.  The players investigate thinking that there may be treasure, but also knowing that their efforts will earn them some local goodwill.

Elizabeth and Timmy were last seen playing near a barrow mound. Uh oh!

·     LOSSES:  Telfer’s F1, and Mike’s MU1’s pretty neck ain’t pretty no more and his head will sit at a slightly cocked angle for the rest of his days.

GAINS:  Treasure – approximately 1500gp worth, PLUS the magical Scale Mail.  400xp each pc, 200xp per henchman.

Here we list those brave adventurers who have been tested and found wanting (usually wanting more hit points).

Dode Enemy-Breaker, D1, Player-Nick, Session 2, Fell into a pit trap.
Fighter guy                     F1, Player-Telfer, Session 3, Throat torn out by Pretender.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

We're playing Old School, so leave your library at home please.

Why we're playing Old School and what that means for you, the victim player.

"How was D&D last night?"
"Well we refused to run away so we all got eaten...   ...again."

About twelve years ago I ran away from my home city to a life of adventure on the seas. Not long after that my old D&D gaming group went over from 2nd edition to 3rd to 3.5 and eventually to 4th edition.  From the outside what I saw was an evolution away from the imagination based games I had played, to a more balanced, rules intensive, board game feel.

Now these are all very good at what they want to be.   I'm not going to get into that debate, but let's just say, it was the very un-tolkien-like psychedelic-otherness and sense that anything could happen of 1st edition AD&D that sucked me in.  We used to do all the combats in our heads and miniatures were rarely used for anything other than showing marching order.

Now that I know more about the earlier editions I see that they too had that feel without being so complicated players spent all their time looking at notes, or sanitized for kids like 2nd edition on appeared to be.  So I've decided to go Old School, I work too hard for D&D to be work as well so we're using Labyrinth Lord and some of the Advanced Edition Companion rule sets, but we are keeping race as class to avoid no one wanting to play a human fighter or thief. (My favorite classes by the way).

To understand how the old school style differs from more modern character-centric RPGs, it is helpful to read The Quick Primer for Old School Gaming (go on, read something).  You'll learn why less rules means more options, faster play, and more fun.  You'll also learn why your PC being very squishy also means more fun; sneaking up on that ghoul really is scarier if you know your PCs next moment could be their last.  

This isn't cinematic.  This isn't super-heroic.  It is only even heroic in the sense that you will sometimes survive doing things most people would consider foolishly brave.  It is rough and ready men and women coming together in a world that doesn't care to make of it what they can.  

Read the primer, it's not long and might just save your PCs life.

It all started at Bella's Bar and Grille.

Welcome to Bella's Bar and Grille, where we aim to make your stay as comfortable as possible.  You can try many dishes from the ever popular gall-bladder sandwich to the finest triceratops fillet.  

This is a blog to record and remember a D&D game and a tool to communicate with my gaming group, and the OSR community.  This is also my first blog post. 

Inspired by the community of people running D&D the way I always wanted it to feel I have pulled together my ideas from the OSR community and started a game.  Taking Pat Wetmore's Anomolous Subsurface Environment campaign setting as the background we have dropped a bunch of PCs in that setting with a couple of leads, and a DM armed with a healthy collection of random tables and fan generated content.

Most of those tables have been gleaned from elsewhere on the net, and my blog links offer an insight into the main influences for those interested, but I couldn't continue without first tipping my hat towards Gus at Dungeon of Signs who's material I have used extensively. 

Perhaps that material resonates with me due to the similarity of the groups.  I'm early forties and have a group of late twenties through to my age ranging from students to professionals who don't normally play a lot of RPGs. I am returning having been away for many years (except for playing in a Dark Heresy game - thanks Mick).

Though I played D&D for many years, and ran other (shortish) games, this D&D game is my first as Dungeon Master.  I intend to play it quite loosely, and off the cuff as much as is required to keep up the pace and fun factor.  To this extent I provide a setting, have some adventures ready to go, and rely on random tables for encounters and rumors to spur the players into action.  What happens will largely be up to them, what they do with their leads and opportunities, and the turn of fate that comes with the dice.  We may even actually get around to having a hard-copy of the rules some time.

Gus at Dungeon of signs has also written two of the three adventures that the PCs have partaken in so far, with The Prison of the Hated Pretender being their first outing and at the time of writing they are taking on The Obelisk of Forgotten Memories.

Rules are Labyrinth Lord with some of the advanced edition stuff.  Race will be race as class to preserve the core classes (if you want something we can make it up or reskin something else).  We have some assumptions and house rules, and these will be posted separately or as a part of the play reports.

The PCs were generated randomly using the Labyrinth Lord basic rules, and the players were asked where they wanted to start.  They chose Lugosi because they thought it sounded cool.  Having chosen Bella's Bar and Grille as their kick off point the game got started, with me ab-libbing hard to expand a few lines of Lugosi description into an interesting game session.  It worked.

Bella's used the same interior designer as the Black Lodge.

I nearly called this blog Bella's Bar and Grille as the characters have taken to frequenting the place, but I felt that it portrayed too narrow a sense of the setting in general.  After all, all those vampire allusions are strictly confined to Lugosi (right?).

Bella's Bar and Grille is one of the 'better' inns in Lugosi.  It is done out in black leather and red velvet with low lighting, and booths which provide a level of privacy.  The door is, attended by Lurch the Doorman and behind the bar is Pistol Vernon, a gaucho bartender in a black-bullfighter-suit.  

Could this be Pistol Vernon's brother?

The players were introduced to a mysterious mature(ish?) woman, One Tooth Mary, dressed in an aging black silk and lace gown with a viel; Mary had three diminutive bald men wearing brown corduroy suits in attendance.

Naturally, Mary had a map and an offer...

An inn named after Bella Lugosi, a friendly well-dressed gaucho gunfighter contact, an inscrutable veiled patron dressed in aging black finery with a map and rumours of a mysterious device. What could possibly go wrong?