Thursday, 30 January 2014

Did I mention I really like Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun?

One of my all time favourite novels (series), I have Jared to thank for putting me on to it all those years ago.  At the time it was very outside the box for me, but now it is up there setting the standard with other favourites like the late Iian M Banks.

So here is this just because I can. I always found the scene where Severian finds the ruined fighting dog discarded like so much trash very moving. If you know it drop me a line and let me know what you like best about those books.

Found on Deviantart, by Pandafunk 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Land of a Thousand Towers: 20 Campaign Questions – Jeff Rients style.

Jeff Rients did these 20 campaign questions to help set the stage for players without revealing too much. Brendan (Untimately) did another 20.  Gus of Dungeon of Signs gave answers for ASE to both sets of questions which I have copied across here for my players (since I'm using so much of his stuff) but I have included some answers of mine in italics.

Gus’ = normal, mine = italics.

Jeff's 20 Questions

1.             Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
All roads lead to Denethix and pretty much anything can be obtained there.  Most towns will have most standard gear, and Lugosi is known for some of the best artisans in the land.

2.             Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
Probably in Denethix to have that sort of work done casually.  .

3.             Who is the mightiest wizard in the land? 
The founder of Denethix, Feretha of course!  You’re new around here right?

4.             Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
Depends who you ask and what game you’re asking about Jimmy.  Captain Tyro of the fist has a deadly reputation for skill and prowess.  The barbarians up north are pretty tough, and the Gauchos of the plains have a reputation for being meaner than cut snakes.  I hear some wizard from down south wears golden armour and has a golden sword and is undefeated too.  Still, history has a few notable meat axes such as Torpo the Cannibal which make a statement like ‘greatest warrior’ hard to pin down, and when you also consider Moktars, Pug Uglies and the like, well, there’s plenty of ‘ard b’stards out there.

5.             Who is the richest person in the land?
Well the mysterious bee riding Wizard from the South Hexamacht the Apigamon appears to have an inexhaustible supply of rubies, diamonds and emeralds – that has to count for something. Otherwise some of the merchants, manufacturers and bureaucrats of Denethix are pretty wealthy.  Anyone with shares in the Bank Inviolable is likely to be sitting pretty sweet too.

6.             Where can we go to get some magical healing? 
 The Priests and Priestesses of the Orbital Gods can show you the power divine mercy if tithe a sufficient amount of coin. They sure are greedy those gods. Also the Temple of Science might be able to provide “healing” in the form of skin grafting, implants and prosthesis and such.

7.             What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

The Church of the Orbital Gods is vast – pick a deity, it likely exists – the weirder the better. There's a table I can roll on for you as well. Monstcrom, the god of dooms and felines is a personal favorite. Of course whatever petty satellite borne deity you pick, know that the others all get a piece of you as well and may/will make demands of your cleric. 

8.             Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?  

Poison and disease the Scientists might be able to handle the rest you'll need to seek the aid of the orbital gods. Lost super-science or a friendly wizard might be a help as well.  You were getting sick of that character anyway, right.

I pronounce thee Most Sci-En-Tiffic.

7.             Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

What? You're a magic user – you know that magic is an addiction that leads to megalomaniacal insanity right? No.

8.             Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

Denethix is just bubbling over with skilled craftsmen and experts. More than a few skilled artisans have packed up and moved to Lugosi to get out of the scum pit that is Denethix as well.

9.             Where can I hire mercenaries?
Several bars along the streets of Lesser Men, Industrious Efforts and the Alien tend to have desperate sell swords or cater to wandering antisocial types.

Anywhere you can find them.  There may be agents in Denethix who can help you.  Have you considered slaves?

10.          Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Magic isn't illegal, but you know it's a dangerous addiction, heck even a variegated eye-leech fiend knows that. The law doesn't take kindly to people starting trouble, agitating among the lower classes or bad mouthing their betters.

11.          Which way to the nearest tavern?
Any which way. Every major street in Denethix and the outlaying villages has at least one tavern of some sort. If you want to go anywhere other than Bella’s Bar and Grille, right?

12.          What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
It's not so much monsters as Wizards. Kill a mad Wizard and you'll be famous.  Rumor has it that a few travellers have been carried off by ‘crystal jaguars’ to the south, and well, there was that Vampire that quite publicly slaughtered all those people at the festival of fangs recently in Lugosi.

Yeah, this IS the Vampire in question. I ain't messing with it!

15.          Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
The Nomads of the Lanthanide Wastes have risen up under the serpent khan and are threatening the valuable Certopsian Trade. The Fist is recruiting.  Psssst, hey, you  wanna get involved in a secret war?....

16.          How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
It's best to sell yourself into slavery first – there are short term indentures for arena fighting, but really it's against the law to do it as a free person – the pit fighters just won't have that sort of unseemly thing. 

17.          Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
Yes, The Scientists, The Church of the Starry Wisdom (might have heard of them!), Society of the Luminous Spark, League of Flesh Debtholders (did a spot of work for them), various ‘criminal’ organizations (oh dear, you might not have a whole lot of choice about this one after ‘you know what’).

18.           What is there to eat around here? Sure theres several tables – from humble Mold cake to decadent dinosaur filets of various kinds covered in gold leaf. I”m telling ya, the eyeballs in tomato sauce at Bellas is worth the trip.

19.          Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
Anything from the pre collapse era will fetch a good price, but nothing really legendary. It's about volume not uniqueness – the world is very old, unique junk that was once fancy is everywhere.
Listen to your rumours players, you might even consider taking notes.  There is that great ‘treasure rumors’ table of Gus’ too.  I might have rolled on that a couple of times.

20.          Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
Where you least expect it – or within the Anomalous Subsurface Environment. What’s Type ‘H’ treasure?

Brendan's 20 Questions

1.             Ability scores generation method?
4D6, drop lowest, swap two results.  Or 3D6 in order if you’re hardcore and want to impress the DM.  If bonuses add up to less than zero then re-roll (unless you don't want to re-roll of course).

2.             How are death and dying handled?
‘Often’.  At 0hp make a saving throw verses death or die.  If you survive you are on 0hp and effectively useless until you get medical attention.  If you go to -6 then you carry some sort of permanent effects (negotiated), and at -10 you are dead and don’t get a saving throw.

3.             What about raising the dead?
You mean like the church of Furter do with their reanimated Remeberated Dead*?  No, oh I see, well  the tales tell of the ancients having that sort of ability.  Maybe the church, but I would expect such a miracle to require a large sacrifice – a alge sacrifice of the golden kind.

4.             How are replacement PCs handled?
We have had henchmen become PCs and new PCs roll up, whatever you prefer, but if you roll a new one your new character gets half of the xp your old one had.  If your new character dies in the first session, you do not divide xp in half again.

5.             Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
We go round the table in order and get statements of intent.  One roll on D6 for the whole group and we go round the table again to act.
In a one on one situation dex modifiers apply.  If you are in an open field and you have a knife, and the dude has a polearm, the dude will go first in the first round, then roll initiative.

6.             Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
A natural 20 is maximum damage.  A natural 01 is an auto-miss, plus roll D6 – getting another 1 is really bad here.

7.             Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
You look snazzy and will get bonuses to certain saves.  It’s working for us so far so how about we wing it!

Denethix extreme sports require helmets.

8.             Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
Silly actions may have unwelcome results.  If your mates were in a brawl, would you fire a gun into the melee?  Oh really?  Roll d20 then, and don’t miss. Definitely DON’T fumble!

9.             Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
Yeah, might have learned this the hard way. Run you little meatbags, mwah ha ha ha... 

10.          Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
Yes, but I will try to foreshadow just how really really bad for you health said creature or situation is.  Like how even the really tough NPCs ran like little girls when the Vampire appeared.

11.          Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
Frequently, what else is a saving throw for – they can be minimized by player knowledge.  Exactly what Gus said.  Repeat after me...

Save or die!  Found this here.I think it's about video game thingies.

12.          How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
Going forward I think I need to put a stop to the ‘one of everything’ approach and like the LotFP approach.  Or spare us all the book-keeping and just buy a frikken Donkey already.

13.          What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
Usually you will need to be ‘rested’ to gain a level, so for now that means in town between adventures.  I”m prepared to be flexible if this is a downer on fun, but it stands for now.  You get your new level spell when you spend the proper amount of time and money researching it.

14.          What do I get experience for?
Completing larger goals, exploration, treasure and killing monsters (in that order).  And some DM fiat based on table time and generally slack attitude to detailed book keeping.

15.          How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
By listening closely to descriptions, actively thinking, and searching when you suspect there may be a trap.  If you do the right things you’ll detect the trap.  You did read the primer right?

16.          Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
Retainers are proving essential to survival.. Remember those two guys carried off by ghouls?  They could have been youRemember when Cybella ordered Jon-O-Tan to go into the scary ass tomb first, well that called for morale roll, and we have already had one henchman (the uber-statted Valgerd T1) quit as a result of his bosses anti-social behaviour (Yes the T1 was lawful).

17.          How do I identify magic items?
Well the Scientists might be able to tell you something about it.  Oh, and that cute young thing Dawn said she had ways.

18.          Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
Seriously, do you see anyone advertising that they are a wizard around here? The DM does have a nice table of ‘magic’ stuff for PCs to waste their money on; does that count?

19.          Can I create magic items? When and how?
Sure – on an ad hoc basis if you invest time, money and magical components.

20.          What about splitting the party?
Sending the thief out in front is one thing, spending half the game session listening to your friends have fun is another.
              What about good and evil?

It’s hard for me to picture objective/absolute  good or evil in this setting, however protection from evil may be useful against multi-dimensional beings and the like.

*These guys featured in the adventure The Obelisk of Forgotten Memories available at Dungeon of Signs.  Download it, it's as good as any d&d adventure I've read.  To my players, just don't click the link.  Really, it's better that way.

Monday, 27 January 2014

SESSION 5 – Out and about in Lugosi.
(The adventurers return to town with a load of treasure and meet some of the locals)

Nick:  Cybella - Magic User 1
Syam:  Brychan - Fighter 1;   XXX - Elf1.
 Telfer:  Maredud - Thief 1.
Michael: XXX – Magic User 1;    Pelegost - Cleric 1  (Calina of the Twelve Annihilations)
Theresa:  Fokus – Cleric 1 (Frig of Gluttony and Rutting), Velegerd – Theif 1.

Having left the underground domain of The Computer accompanied by the newly liberated Jon-O-Tan, former servant of the computer, the characters make their way back through the barrens and the farm lands.  In a chance encounter they spy an ancient lawnmower-sized machine aimlessly performing duties in an untended meadow. 

Flipping it onto it’s side they find what looks like a switch and they switch it off.  They rig a tow line and take it with them to Lugosi.  Along the way a change of wind brings the strong taint of metal and noxious fumes from some pit of waste somewhere nearby, but the remainder of the journey is otherwise uneventful.

Arriving in Lugosi they make their way to the Jefferson’s residence, a well to do two storied Victorian style house with an iron runged fence in front.  A butler shows them in and asks them to wait in the guest room, and he and Elizabeth leave.  A short time later Mr and Mrs Jefferson arrive to thank the player characters. Mr Jefferson is the model of the average ‘Denethix Gentleman’.  His fashion is current but understated and his demeanour if affable.  Mrs Jefferson wears a purple period ballgown and has a large three-lobed beehive hairdo.

By way of thanks Mr Jefferson offers a small amount of money, and also to assist with introductions in town should the PCs wish.  The PCs want to meet weapons crafters (of course they do) and Mr Jefferson agrees that he can introduce them to the best on the morrow.

The PCs stay the night at Bella’s.  Some of the coloured armour is sold to One Tooth Mary.

In the morning they meet with Mr Jefferson who takes them to a weapon smith.  It is a well appointed and maintained workshop with a high level of machining capabilities.  It is unclear how many apprentices thee are.  The Klienstad Brothers who own the business are twins.  With matching blonde bowl haircuts, tanned artisans physiques, strong features, leather work aprons and generic northern European accents they nearly indistinguishable except one has a beard and the other has breasts.  They are introduced as special customers and are treated well.  Cybella commissions a device for her crossbow which will reduce reload time (wasn’t that nice of the DM).

The players try to sell a bunch of loot, and the brothers buy the pistol.  The Kleinstads recommend going to the scientist to sell the rest.

Loot sold for a good price.

Arriving at the temple of science it is an old building of the sort that may have been a old solidly built meeting hall with shuttered windows.  Inside up the middle there are two parallel paths leaing toward the end.  Against the walls on either side are cupboards, workbenches, equipment and devices.  Along the middle is a collection of old ‘antiquity’ scrap.  At the end of the hall is a small podium and lectern, which stand before a large black pyramid.  The pyramid is made of some shiney black material and has a device at the top showing four digits (which if observed are slowly counting down).

Coming out of the door at the back is an individual dressed in a long white leather lab coat, with short cropped brown hair, wide eyes, and a metal hand showing beneath the coat.  In his high pitched voice he introduces himself as Strontium the Scientist.  Introductions are made and the characters ask if he is able to tell them what some of their loot is, and whether he is interested in buying any of it. 

Examining the belt buckle, he picks it up and puts it in a device about the size and shape of a small microwave and pushes a button.  A light comes on, a humming is heard and shortly small sparks of lightning can be seen.  The players fear the worst but Strontium tells them it is a protective shield technology device and still perfectly operational. (treat as ring of protection +2).  The syringes are identified as hypnotism, confusion, control undead, and invisibility.  Strontium is very interested in the self propelled lawn mower, and he pays 1300 gold for it and some other lesser items.

So the crazy guy in the lab coat takes your 'magic item' and puts it in here.  It hums a bit and sparks flash.

During their day the players hear a rumour of a star that detached itself from the quiet orbital god and fell to the ground somewhere south of denethix.

Later that day at Bella’s they meet a fat slave master and retinue who are heading to Denethix and keen to hire some extra caravan guards. A deal is struck and in two days the PCs will travel to Denethix to see what all the fuss is about.

Heading back out a random encounter roll produces ‘six young farm girls looking for a good time’.  Naturally Fokus, acolyte of Frig, Orbital God for Gluttony and Rutting is pretty keen and half the party follows.  A very favourable reaction roll combined with high charisma saw this go downhill fast, and half the parties characters were out of play for the night from that point.

Cybella hung around, and proving that sometimes the dice do go the PC’s way a successful she made a successful attempt at seducing Pistol Vernon.  She discovered that Mary used to be a very influential assassin among the finest killers in the land, but that she had withdrawn from the limelight after being cursed by a vampire.

Looking for work the players sign on with some fat cat slavers as guards for a trip to Denethix.

GAINS:  Sold the Pistol, excess armour, lawn mower and minor items for good gold.

Here we list those brave adventurers who have been tested and found wanting (more hit points).
Dode Enemy-Breaker, Dwarf-1,  Session2,  Fell into a pit trap.
Fighter guy,  F1,  Session3,  Throat torn out by Pretender.
Mike’s Wizard,  MU1,  Session4,  Shot in back with laser carrying 8 flasks of oil in backpack.
Syam’s Elf, E1,  Session4,     Face burned off by energy bolt from nano-poo-monster in water recycling plant.